A new US study suggests that controlling pollution from cement kilns in Ellis County might be the key to improving air-quality problems in North Texas that regional leaders are struggling to fix. A final draft of the much-anticipated study, submitted this week to regional leaders, concludes that installing modern pollution-control equipment in the kilns would slash ozone-forming emissions by thousands of tons a year.
The study, conducted by five cement kiln experts appointed by the state, will likely spark calls for state regulators to crack down on pollution from the kilns, among the largest industrial sources of ozone-forming pollution in the region.
It comes as regional planners struggle to bring the Dallas-Fort Worth region into compliance with federal clean-air laws by a 2010 deadline. Failure to meet that deadline could subject the region to harsh federal sanctions.
Local leaders have indicated that they are prepared to require motorists to make some significant sacrifices to improve air quality, including possibly adding fees to the costs of new SUVs and other vehicles that are not fuel-efficient and banning drive-through windows at banks and fast-food restaurants during ozone season.
Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher said it would be difficult to ask residents to make such sacrifices if regional leaders do not also get tough on the cement kilns. She said the region probably needs the cement kilns to make the reductions to have any chance of meeting the ozone standards by the deadline.
The study focused on three cement kilns: Holcim Inc., Ash Grove Cement and TXI Operations, all in Ellis County. Industry representatives, who have argued that pollution controls outlined in the latest study are not being used in other cement kilns and may not work, said they are still reviewing the latest study.