Deal with cement plant vexes environmentalists

Deal with cement plant vexes environmentalists
Published: 20 March 2006

An environmental group says it’s disappointed with a Laramie cement plant’s progress in replacing pollution controls despite an agreement last October that settled a federal air-quality lawsuit. The Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and Mountain Cement have not yet finalized a settlement agreement agreed to in principle nearly six months ago.

Under the agreement, Mountain Cement was to reduce emissions from the plant by installing a baghouse on one of its two kilns within 18 months of a final agreement. But the two sides have not yet agreed upon final details of the wording.

"I’m more than disappointed. It’s infinitely frustrating," said lawyer Reed Zars, who represents the alliance. "This is what should have been a prosaic filing."

The process became more complicated when Mountain Cement’s parent company, Texas-based Eagle Materials, chose to replace the entire kiln and not just the pollution-control portion. Phil Nicholas, lawyer for the company, said the new kiln will take 24 to 30 months to complete.

Nicholas said he is optimistic that the alliance will work with Mountain Cement to reach an agreement that ensures the long-term environmental health of Laramie, but he said the company can’t turn over veto power over the project to the environmental group.

Mountain Cement President Stuart Tomlinson said the cement company isn’t trying to renege on the original agreement and will still replace the original pollution control device, called an electrostatic precipitator, with the cleaner baghouse as promised. But Tomlinson said the cleaner technology will take longer than expected because of the expanded development.