TXI in a hurry to cement new permit

TXI in a hurry to cement new permit
Published: 10 May 2004

The biggest industrial plant in North Texas is racing the calendar.  If Dallas-based Texas Industries Inc wins, which means getting its permit changed by June 15, the cement maker gets to unplug some major pollution-control equipment, save millions of dollars a year, hike production and boost emissions of carbon monoxide and smog-causing compounds.  The company’s sprint to the state permitting offices is fallout from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s decision last month to include Ellis County in the region’s ozone violation area.

Environmentalists and Dallas-Fort Worth political and business leaders favored that move, arguing that it would put the region’s biggest emitters under the tightest controls for the first time. TXI; US Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis; and others opposed the EPA’s decision, saying it would cost local companies money.  Now, TXI’s rush to get its permit changed before Ellis County’s new status kicks in illustrates one effect of the EPA’s ruling.

TXI wants to shut down a pollution-control system that it says is costing US$6m a year to run, far more than expected. The system is on TXI’s kiln No  5, centerpiece of a US$250m expansion of the Midlothian plant finished in 2001. The cost of controlling pollution is hurting profits and competitiveness, TXI says.  Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials support the changes. They’ve concluded that though the pollution equipment works about as well as expected, its operating costs have proved unreasonably high. Environmentalists are fighting the move, saying the resulting pollution would threaten public health. And they’re questioning commission officials’ assertions that the increased emissions wouldn’t worsen local air quality.

Potential changes include: Turning off the pollution controls on kiln No 5 which would boost the plant’s permitted emissions, especially of carbon monoxide.  Now capped at 370 tons per year, the new limit would apparently be 7200 tons per year. That would propel TXI from 160th to sixth statewide in carbon monoxide emissions, according to 2001 state figures, the latest available.