A long-running dispute over the use of pollution controls at TXI Operations’ Midlothian Texas cement kiln has been resolved. The Dallas-based company has reached a preliminary agreement to abandon efforts to scale back the use of equipment that reduces ozone-forming emissions at the kiln, several sources said. The agreement is part of a settlement with two environmental groups and more than 20 Midlothian residents who challenged TXI’s plans.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in March referred the issue to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
While not revealing details, both sides expressed satisfaction with the settlement. "I think everybody is pleased, and we’re certainly wanting to move on," said Randy Jones, vice president of corporate communications and government affairs at TXI.
Tom Boyle, a Midlothian resident who participated in the case, said TXI’s willingness to listen to residents’ concerns bodes well for the future. "I hope TXI and our other local industries continue to listen to what we have to say," said Boyle, 49. "We’re not trying to run them out of business. But we need them to be better neighbors."
Environmentalists had argued that curtailing the use of the ozone-fighting equipment – called a regenerative thermal oxidizer – would allow tons of additional ozone-producing pollutants to be discharged into the air each year. Ellis County is one of nine counties in the region that do not comply with federal ground-level ozone standards. The region must comply by 2010 or face severe federal sanctions.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was set to approve the company’s request in March, finding that the cost to operate the pollution controls was not "economically reasonable." TXI has argued that the expense puts the kiln at a disadvantage with its competitors. The state commission determined that scaling back pollution controls would not have "any adverse effects on D/FW air quality."
The federal Environmental Protection Agency disagrees. In written comments to the state last year, EPA officials noted "significant concerns" with TXI’s proposal, especially claims that it would not affect the region’s ozone problem.
It’s not clear how the settlement will affect a separate lawsuit that the company filed last year against the EPA. In that lawsuit, TXI asked a US Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether the EPA has authority to block efforts by the company to scale back pollution controls.