Thursday, August 9, 2012

The EPA Wimped Out on Cement Plants, but the Fight Continues in DFW Next ... - Dallas Observer (blog)

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Just south of Dallas along Highway 67 in Midlothian is perhaps the country's largest concentration of cement plants. TXI, Holcim, and Ash Grove all operate facilities within a couple of miles of each other, and the emissions they pump into the air tend to waft over Dallas when the winds are right, as they are for most of the year.

Those emissions represent the single largest source of air pollution in North Texas and pose a significant risk to human health, and local environmental group Downwinders at Risk has spent more than two decades lobbying for stricter rules. That seemed close to happening three years ago when the Obama administration began drafting what would be the first industry-wide regulations governing cement plants. The EPA held a trio of public meeting nationwide, including one at DFW airport, where 200 people showed up to speak in support of limiting emissions. Rules to that effect were proposed in 2010. Then, nothing.

"At the very last minute, they pulled the rug out from everybody," says Downwinders director Jim Schermbeck.

The proposal just kind of disappeared, Schermbeck says, and has now been replaced with much looser regulations that, among other things, double the amount of particulate matter that can be released and limit monitoring to test burns every couple of years. That seems contrary to the EPA's own determination that particulate matter "may result in tens of thousands of death per year, and many more cases of illness among the U.S. population. Also, the new proposal has the rules going into effect in 2015 instead of 2013, which could spell doom for any new rules if a Republican is elected president this fall.

That all has Schermbeck pretty pissed, as does the scant two weeks' notice the EPA gave for the only public hearing on the revised proposal in the country, which will be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on August 16 at Arlington City Hall.

Schermbeck's going to be there, and he's going to bring a shredder to symbolize the fate of the 2010 rule. He encourages others to join him. They should bring comments, yes, but also medical bills, photos of deceased love ones, anything that can be shred as a symbol of opposition to looser restrictions on particulate matter. And no, you don't have to stay all 10 hours. It's a come-and-go type of thing.

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