Hundreds of supporters of a controversial plan to build one of the world’s largest cement plants packed public meetings Monday in St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve, Mo. Holcim Inc, based in Switzerland, wants to build a $600m cement plant about 40 miles south of St. Louis in northern Ste. Genevieve County. Environmentalists say the project would pollute the Mississippi River and threaten the region’s compliance with federal clean air standards. The public meetings were called by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which in January issued a draft form of an air pollution permit to Holcim. The meetings are required to make the permit official. A final decision on the permit will be made later this year, department officials said.
On Monday morning a crowd of about 200 people -- evenly divided between project supporters and critics -- attended a meeting in the Central West End. Monday night more than 500 people -- the overwhelming majority supporters of Holcim -- jammed into an Elks lodge in Ste. Genevieve County. Many waved "Holcim Yes" placards and argued that the project would be an economic boon for the county. Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, was one of several state legislators who flew in from Jefferson City to speak in favor of the plant at the night meeting. He called Holcim "a good corporate citizen" and said all of southeastern Missouri would benefit from the plan. Local leaders agreed. Nancy Tully, a spokeswoman for Holcim, said the plant would operate well within established safety standards for all emissions, including mercury, nitrogen oxide and fine particulates. She said the plant would use the best pollution control available.