Texas Industries Inc., local environmental groups and Midlothian residents will meet with a mediator over the next 30 days to try to reach a compromise on the cement maker’s request to turn off pollution-control equipment for part of the year.
The announcement came at the end of a preliminary hearing Tuesday before a state administrative law judge at Waxahachie City Hall. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had ordered the hearing in March after environmental groups had opposed TXI’s request to modify its state air permit to allow higher emissions. TXI says it needs the modification to remain competitive.
The agreement to try mediation came three hours after the start of the hearing - and four hours after three dozen Midlothian residents and environmentalists held a news conference on City Hall steps, decrying TXI and other Ellis County cement makers for polluting the air and denouncing politicians and state regulators who, they say, side with the plants over people.
In 2002, with the price of natural gas skyrocketing, the cement maker applied for a new permit to shut off the equipment and enable an increase in cement production to meet demand. Rex Coffman, environmental manager for TXI, said computer modeling done by the company and the state showed that emissions would meet health standards even if the oxidizer were turned off all year.
"It came back that it would not have an impact on the ozone," Mr. Coffman said.