The Costs of Inaction: Cement Company Fined $1.7M for Clean Air Act Violations

Cement manufacture accounts for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Recently, Essroc Cement, the 8th largest cement producer in the country, was found to be in violation of the Clean Air Act and they have agreed to pay $1.7 million in penalty. In addition to this, the company has also agreed to invest approximately $33 million in pollution control technology.

The plants located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and Puerto Rico have reached a settlement with the EPA and the Department of Justice. According to the agreement, they are required to reduce more than 7,000 tons of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution. NOx and SO2 are the two key pollutants from all cement plants and they can lead to acid rain, smog and respiratory illnesses including asthma in children. 

Additionally, Essroc has also also agreed to spend $745,000 to mitigate the effects of past excess emissions from its facilities. According to the EPA, the company will install pollution control technology to reduce pollutants in five of its plants. They are also going to demonstrate a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system in their Indiana plants, which is a technology that chemically reduces nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and water.

For 2011-2013, reducing air pollution from cement plants is one of the EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives. In December alone, Essroc was the second cement company to reach a settlement. CalPortland Company agreed to pay a $1.425 million penalty for Clean Air Act violations at its Mojave plant and spend about $1.3 million on pollution controls, earlier in the month.

Apart from particulate pollution, the EPA is also targeting mercury pollution – another by-product of cement manufacture. Latest EPA regulations reduce the amount of mercury that cement plants can release to 55 pounds per million tons of cement produced. The newest rules will cut mercury emissions by 92% and they will also reduce particulate matter by 92% and sulfur dioxide by 78%, saving $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs.

With the growing need for cement especially in developing countries, cleaner technologies are desperately needed. Cement does not recycle well and by-products of cement manufacture like fly ash cause huge problems at disposal. With the EPA’s strict clamp-downs, there is a hope that cement manufacturers will now be more responsible. Pollution and carbon emissions will further be reduced if other countries also took up these initiatives to make the industry greener.

 Image Credit: Cement Plant, Flickr upload bot, Wikimedia Commons

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net