National Alliance takes aim at Cemex

National Alliance takes aim at Cemex
Published: 07 November 2006

Commentary by Laurene Weste and Bob Kellar 

Communities in four other states recently joined Santa Clarita in a newly established alliance to fight multinational giant Cemex and its mining operations across the country.

This first-of-its-kind national alliance is comprised of active citizens groups from Colorado, California, Ohio, Florida and Michigan who have formed to fight unlawful or dangerous activities at Cemex operations in their communities.

Cemex has a long history of violating state and federal regulations across the United States, reports The Signal. Cemex has been cited for thousands of air and water violations in at least eight states - California, New Mexico, Colorado, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Tennessee - and has paid US$4.5min state and federal environmental fines.

The national alliance’s first action was to send a letter to the Mexico-based multinational conglomerate to urge the company to abide by all state and federal air, water and environmental standards, and to work closely and honestly with communities where they currently or potentially will operate.

Alliance members will coordinate efforts and resources to communicate with international media, shareholders and political leaders about the questionable activities of Cemex in communities across America.

Here is a run down of the alliance partners and their major issues:

Colorado: "The track record of operating violations at Cemex demonstrates a disregard for the well-being of this community. After examining the compliance history for Cemex, compiled by the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, we are appalled at the dire conditions depicted.

"They have back-to-back notices of violation and a compliance order that includes penalties for poor air pollution control practices and a penalty for the absence of pollution controls that the company asserted that it had as a condition of its permit.

"Instead of cleaning up their act or being shut down, they negotiate down the amount of the fines and continue operating, and even intend to expand their operation to include burning tires.

"We do not trust this company to protect the health and environment of the residents in our community." - Anne George, Steering Committee, St. Vrain Valley Community Watchdogs, Colorado.

Ohio: "In March 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited Cemex for violations of the Prevention of Significant Deterioration in Part C of the Clean Air Act, dating back to 1997. The notice of violation and finding of violation stand as unresolved at this time.

"Also, in July 2006, the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency issued a warning letter to Cemex for installing an access door on the preheater tower without a permit. Fairborn (Ohio) citizens must obey the law; why doesn’t Cemex?

"Cemex has also requested an exemption from the permitting process to do a 42-day trial burn using old tires. How can they be trusted?" - Dawn Falleur, Green Environmental Coalition, Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Florida: "In spite of two previous denials by the Manatee County Commission, Cemex continued to press for approval to construct a concrete ready mix plant in close proximity to several residential communities and schools. Hundreds of neighbors representing several nearby communities vigorously expressed their strong objections to allowing this proposed plant to be built.

"Seeing this concerted opposition, while anticipating long delays in the continued pursuit of the approval process, Cemex recently agreed to work with Manatee County officials in an attempt to identify a mutually acceptable alternate site.

"Only time will tell to help us determine the legitimacy of Cemex’s recent actions." - Clint Miller, Chairman of the East Manatee County Coalition, Florida.

Michigan: "Cemex had a serious fuel oil spill that was not detected for months. Several thousand gallons of fuel oil leaked into the ground beneath the plant, resulting in a cleanup that lasted for years. Cemex was out of compliance most of the time with stack emissions.

"The Water and Air Team for Charlevoix (WATCH) had good communications with the management team at Cemex during the time they owned the cement plant in Charlevoix, but little results from our efforts. They had problems with dust control around the plant. They made no effort to control noise.

"The difference between Cemex and the current owner, St. Mary’s Cement, is like night and day. St. Mary’s has been doing a cleanup of the physical plant; they have installed a new bag house facility, which has them in compliance with a dramatic drop in particulate emissions; they have vastly improved blasting techniques; they have employed noise and lighting control measures; they have installed a "green" berm around the quarry; and they have been completely open and accessible about everything." - Bill Henne, President of WATCH, Michigan.

Ohio: "As parents, we have great cause for concern. We hold some of the most sensitive individuals to air pollution, our children, under our care. We dedicate ourselves to raising healthy children, feeding them natural food, avoiding toxic products and then must send them out to play in some of the most polluted air in the country.

"What else can we do as parents but stand up to protect our children from corporations like Cemex, who pollute without care for our children’s health and welfare?" - Aimee Lunde Maruyama, Parents Against Burning Tires.

In California, Cemex has a track record of averting local community control and going against the wishes of the communities where they operate.

By working together, we aim to protect local control and preserve the health and safety of our residents. Supporting the business community, preserving the environment and protecting our quality of life are not mutually exclusive.

Mayor Laurene Weste and Bob Kellar are members of the Santa Clarita City Council. Their column reflects the city’s views, and not necessarily those of The Signal or International Cement Review.