By Susan Kraemer
The EPA has for the first time moved to control hazardous air pollution from cement plants with the first-ever national rules that will protect Americans' health. The third largest source of mercury air emissions are cement plants, because they burn coal to fire up kilns. Cement kilns around the nation generate nearly 23,000 pounds of airborne mercury a year.
To formulate the new rule, the agency studied emissions from 89 kilns and derived the proposed standards from the 11 lowest-emitting plants nationwide. Until now, lack of regulation has provided little incentive for the others to clean up.
Once fully implemented in 2013, mercury pollution must be reduced 92 percent, much tougher than the 81 percent that industry analysts expected from the incoming Obama administration last year, and as recently as June.
In addition, hydrochloric acid emissions will be reduced by 97 percent, particulate matter by 92 percent, total hydrocarbons by 83 percent and sulfur dioxide by 78 percent. NOx emissions are already covered and will be reduced a further 5 percent.
For every dollar in costs to reduce pollution spent by cement plants (under $1 billion), the health benefits are expected to be between $7 and $19 in reduced health costs ($7 billion to $19 billion) but the cost/benefit might be even better than that. Another EPA analysis estimates emission reductions and costs will be lower, with costs projected to be $350 million annually, or much lower than $950 million.
Mercury causes loss of IQ and neurological brain damage in children, and the other toxic emissions also cause asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
Additionally, the EPA also announced that separately from today's announcement, it is next moving towards limiting greenhouse gas pollution from cement kilns, which are the 3rd largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases cause climate change that cause a variety of chaotic changes in long-term climate including more frequent wildfires (as seen near Moscow now), pine beetle invasion, crop failure, smog, sea level rise, the salination of drinking water, melting glaciers, heavy snows, floods, droughts, mudslides, desertification and the spread of tropical diseases.
With this final rule, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is to be commended for a series of tough rulings on hazardous air pollution and greenhouse gases, in the absence of any sensible legislation to protect Americans out of a dysfunctional Senate, paralyzed by a decades-long Republican filibuster of environmental legislation.