The second US Midlothian cement plant in a week has agreed to limit its air pollution while maintaining increased cement production. Texas Industries Inc., two environmental groups and 22 Midlothian residents tentatively reached an agreement under which the city’s largest cement maker will rescind its request to the state to turn off a pollution-control device for six months each year. The device controls hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and sulphur.
The TXI agreement comes a week after Blue Skies Alliance and Downwinders At Risk reached an agreement with Holcim Inc. to limit a different kind of air pollution from its Midlothian cement plant - the nitrogen oxides that form ozone and smog in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.
"I do think it was a good effort on everybody’s part to come to an agreement that made sense for everybody," said TXI spokesman Randy Jones. "That certainly is a plus, not only for TXI and for the citizens. You do that through communication, trying to have constructive dialogue going back and forth, and I think that’s what’s happened here." Ms. Hammond called the accord historic "as far as TXI finally coming to the table to negotiate. I don’t think they came as willingly as Holcim or were as creative as Holcim, but then again, they didn’t get as big an increase as Holcim."
Holcim said in the late 1990s that it could double production but halve nitrogen oxides to 1540t a year, so that’s what its permit allowed. Instead, its pollution by 2002 was 4200t; last week’s agreement holds it to 3614t.
In terms of carbon monoxide only, the amount added to the atmosphere by the TXI agreement is equivalent to almost 20,000 Chevrolet Suburbans driving 20,000 miles a year. But the permit that TXI had sought from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, if granted, would have added the pollution emitted by nearly 60,000 Suburbans on top of that.
The agreement enables the cement-maker to maintain production of 2.8 million tons per year of clinker, the chief component of cement. Holcim’s agreement enables 2.67Mt annually. The third plant, Ash Grove, produces just under 1Mta. Until all details are worked out, Mr. Jones said, he could not provide details about how the pollution-control device, known as a regenerative thermal oxidizer, could run continuously but still allow more emissions than it does now.
TXI had asked the state for a permit to turn off the device because high natural gas costs were making its operation more expensive than anticipated. Blue Skies, Downwinders and others contested the request, and an administrative law judge agreed in June to allow the parties to try mediation. The new accord is the result.
"I am happy TXI has shown a new willingness to talk with and listen to the citizens of Midlothian," Tom Boyle, a Dallas attorney, six-year resident of Midlothian and party to the agreement, said in a statement. "I hope all of our local industries will listen to the concerns of local citizens. Families most affected by Midlothian’s cement plants have been shut out of the process for too long."