Illinois environmental officials expressed concerns Wednesday about air pollution from a massive new cement plant proposed for the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. Illinois officials have not formally objected to the construction of the plant, which would be 40 miles south of St. Louis in Ste. Genevieve County. However, state officials want a better explanation of why Holcim will be allowed to test out a pollution control technology that they think should be standard equipment.
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Renee Cipriano sent a letter Wednesday to Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Stephen Mahfood. Cipriano’s letter pointed out that the facility "has the potential to significantly affect air quality in Illinois." The plant would produce 4 million tons of cement a year, making it the largest in the nation.
Holcim officials have said the plant would be environmentally friendly and have a minimal impact on air pollution. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is required to formally consent to the air pollution permit Missouri issued Tuesday for the plant. Dave Kolaz, chief of the Illinois EPA’s Bureau of Air, said the department believes that Holcim should have been required to use a technology called "selective non-catalytic reduction" to remove smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions. Instead, the Missouri permit lets Holcim experiment with that technology in order to meet an overall emission limit.
Cipriano’s letter says that Holcim proposed using the same technology as standard equipment at a plant in New York. Holcim spokeswoman Nancy Tully said the New York permit application was filed by St. Lawrence Cement, a sister company. St. Lawrence proposed using selective non-catalytic reduction as an experimental technology, but the state of New York demanded that it be used as a standard pollution control method. The permit is still in draft form, Tully said. Kyra Moore, permit section chief for Missouri’s air pollution control program, said that New York’s permit may be different because the proposed plant would be in an area that doesn’t meet federal ozone regulations. Ste Genevieve was recently excluded from the St. Louis area’s latest ozone "non-attainment" zone. Both Illinois and Missouri officials said the two environmental agencies have a good working relationship, and they expected to hash out their differences.