States, Enviros Sue EPA Over Cement Factory Emissions

States, Enviros Sue EPA Over Cement Factory Emissions
Published: 22 February 2007

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo today announced a multi-state legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, for adopting a rule that refuses to regulate mercury and other pollutants from existing portland cement plants.

The states seek to have a federal court overturn the rule by finding that it violates the Clean Air Act.

A petition, signed by nine states, was filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The states joining New York in the petition are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Portland cement is the primary cement used in building projects and road construction. It is produced throughout the United States. Collectively, these cement plants are a major source of mercury emissions nationwide.

The federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set standards for various hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, based on the performance of the cleanest 12 percent of existing plants.

The EPA’s rule would exempt existing portland cement plants from having to do anything to lower their emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) refusal to set emission standards for portland cement plants leaves a significant source of mercury pollution in the United States unregulated.

Mercury in the environment is blamed for neurological disorders, learning disabilities, and, in certain high dosage cases, even death. Recent studies suggest that mercury exposure may also contribute to adult cardiovascular problems. In addition, mercury contamination in many water bodies has led to the issuance of fish consumption advisories across New York State.

This will be the second time that the EPA has been challenged over its failure to set mercury pollution standards for the portland cement industry. In 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit directed the EPA to set mercury standards. The EPA has since ignored the court’s ruling.

"It is shameful that the Bush Administration’s EPA continues to abdicate its responsibility to protect public health and the environment. This coalition of states is resorting to the federal courts in an effort to compel the EPA to follow the law and establish limits for the most dangerous pollutants," said Cuomo.

"This is just another instance in a long line of examples of the Bush Administration caving to industry lobbyists at the expense of the health concerns of ordinary citizens."

On Friday in the same court, environmentalists brought their own lawsuit against the EPA for its latest refusal to limit cement kilns’ mercury emissions.