The Lebec cement plant, California plant has gained permission from regional air regulators to burn old tyres as fuel, in spite of strong protests from local residents. The National Cement Company’s factory had been burning tyres for fuel experimentally for two years. But last month the California Air Resources Board and the state office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessments reviewed and approved the environmental impact report that examined the consequences of making the process permanent. Their approval allowed the Kern County Air Pollution Control District Board to give the company permission to permanently substitute 25 per cent of their fuel for chopped-up tyres.
Area residents who protested said the air officials were disregarding their health concerns. They said burning tyres emits toxic chemicals. "We are very disappointed, but not surprised," said Lebec-area resident Linda MacKay. "I feel like quite often our (government) representatives put industry in front of the health and safety of the people."
Public records show the company has a long record of air pollution violations. National Cement has been cited for at least 63 air pollution violations since the plant opened in 1966. About 43 of those violations were in the past four years. National Cement President Don Unmacht was unavailable for comment. But he has told The Bakersfield Californian in the past the plant’s record would improve with time and experience.