Harlon Guenther’s front yard is reportedly covered with a fine white dust, a daily consequence of living less than 200 yards from the Cemex New Braunfels, USA cement plant. Guenther was dismayed to learn several weeks ago the company planned to expand its operations, but he felt powerless to protest. about the plant’s recent permit request for a new raw mill and a second kiln.
Cemex filed its request with TCEQ earlier this summer after canceling an invitation-only, public relations event to announce its plans to make the largest investment by a privately-owned company in Comal County’s history. The application indicates the plant’s capital improvements will cost more than $25m, generate 21 new jobs and roughly double its operational size. Although the announcement was canceled, the expansion was not. The expansion also will include selective non-catalytic reduction to ensure the total oxides of nitrogen emissions from both kilns does not exceed 2801t per year.
Cemex Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Rick Shapiro said significant demand for cement around the country was driving the need to expand the company’s New Braunfels facility. “We constantly look at how we meet the demand of our customers,” he said. “Once we get a favorable outcome from our TCEQ permit application, which we fully expect, our next step is to re-evaluate market conditions. Then, we’ll determine whether or not to move forward with the expansion.”
Mark Gould, with TCEQ, said the agency had not started its technical review of the data but noted the plant’s estimated change in allowable pollutants was below the level required to trigger an Environmental Protection Agency review. “These are not major modifications, according to EPA standards, which is a good thing,” he said. Gould also noted Cemex was offering to do voluntary control device upgrades for the new and existing kilns and cooler. “The fact that they’re doing this voluntarily, before we asked them to, is a good sign,” Gould said. “This whole process is designed to prevent the area from having bad pollution.”