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EPA Fines Cement Maker $1.69 Million

Thursday, August 18, 2016

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Cement manufacturer Cemex Inc. faces a $1.69 million penalty and will invest $10 million in cutting emissions at five of its plants as a result of a recent settlement with the U.S. government, the latest in a series of agreements dating back years.

The Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement with the company in July that affects Cemex plants in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas. It’s the fourth such settlement between the agency and the cement company since 2009, and brings the company’s total Clean Air Act-related civil penalties to more than $6 million.

Cemex truck
Images: Cemex / via Youtube

Cemex, a major manufacturer of Portland cement, also deals in other related products, including aggregate and ready-mix concrete.

At issue are past emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) at Cemex’s plants in Knoxville, TN; Demopolis, AL; Louisville, KY; New Braunfels, TX; and Odessa, TX. The five facilities are among Cemex’s 13 cement plants nationwide, according to the company’s website.

The settlement resolves allegations from the EPA that “on more than one occasion, Cemex failed to obtain pre-construction permits and install and operate the appropriate nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide control technology” at its plants, resulting in “significant emissions increases.”

The allegations reportedly stem from modifications made at the company’s U.S. plants in the mid- and late 1990s.

Global Cement Producer

Cemex, headquartered in Hidalgo, Mexico, has a presence in more than 50 countries worldwide. It is a major manufacturer of Portland cement, and deals in other related products, including aggregate and ready-mix concrete. Its U.S. headquarters is in Houston, TX.

Golden One Center

Cemex products are used in both private construction and public infrastructure projects worldwide, including Sacramento's Golden One Center, pictured.

The company reported net sales of $14.1 billion in 2015. Its cement and concrete products are used in both private construction and public infrastructure projects worldwide.

Past Settlements

In 2009, Cemex entered into an agreement with the EPA over emissions at its Victorville, CA, plant, paying a $2 million civil penalty and ensuring compliance with stricter limits on NOx and SO2 emissions. In 2011, the company agreed to pay a $1.4 million penalty and invest about $2 million in bringing its Fairborn, OH, plant into compliance with EPA rules.

In a settlement in 2013, Cemex agreed to a $1 million civil penalty and the initiation of advanced pollution controls at its plant in Lyons, CO.

Limiting Emissions

According to the EPA, the new consent decree addressing the five southern U.S. plants will likely result in a net drop in NOx emissions of 4,000 tons per year. The EPA notes that the company will be required to “maintain the already-low SO2 emissions at current rates or better.

Cemex Victorville plant

In 2009, Cemex entered into an agreement with the EPA over emissions at its Victorville, CA, plant (pictured); more recently, the plant has been awarded Energy Star certification.

While Cemex has entered into emissions-reduction agreements numerous times in the past seven years, the company has at the same time earned high marks for energy efficiency at its facilities. Five of its plants, including the Victorville and Fairborn facilities, achieved EPA Energy Star certification this year, according to the company, and in 2009 and 2010, Cemex was named Energy Star Partner of the Year.

Cemex issued a statement in response to the latest settlement, which reads, in part: "CEMEX and its affiliate, Kosmos Cement Company, have voluntarily entered into an agreement with the EPA regarding alleged historical violations at five cement plants. The settlement resolves a long-running dispute with the EPA regarding its allegations in connection with historical operations at the five plants. Under the settlement, additional emissions monitoring and reduction equipment will be installed at the plants.

"CEMEX and Kosmos Cement look forward to closing this matter and moving forward with the programs in place at our facilities that focus on sustainability and have resulted in consistent regulatory compliance and environmental excellence."

Other Cement Producers Fined

Enforcement at cement plants has been an EPA initiative in recent years; in 2012, Essroc Cement Co. was ordered to pay $1.7 in fines and spend more than $30 million on pollution-control upgrades at its plants. And in December 2011, CalPortland Co., of Mojave, CA, was ordered to pay $1.4 million in fines and spend upwards of $1 million on emissions-control upgrades.

“The cement sector is a significant source of air pollution posing real health risks to the communities where they reside, including vulnerable communities across the U.S. who deserve better air quality than they have gotten over the years,” said John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

   

Tagged categories: Air pollution control; Cement; concrete; Emissions; Enforcement; EPA

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/18/2016, 11:25 AM)

I'm sorry, cynical moment here. CEMEX is getting fined for plant emissions and they are hyping their Energy Star certifications. (I know, it's a tangent...but even their statement talks about sustainability.) As nice as it may be to be LEED, Energy Star or some other "green" certified, it has no bearing on what's coming out the stack of your plant. You can be very energy efficient and use "green" building materials all you want, but it may just mean you're minimizing the amount of energy you are using while polluting like crazy. *End of rant* :)


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