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US appeals court upholds ruling on toxic cement plant emissions


New toxic air emissions standards for cement plants have been upheld by a US appeals court.

The April 18, 2014 court decision rejected a challenge from environmental advocates who argued that the air standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were not strict enough, as the grinding and heating involved in cement  manufacturing releases hazardous air pollutants, most notably mercury, hydrochloric acid, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter.

There are 107 cement plants in 36 states, according to the Portland Cement Association.

The environmental groups argued in October 2013 that the EPA’s 2013 Rule, a second attempt to address cement kilns, flies in the face of the Clean Air Act. The court’s ruling states that Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7412, requires the EPA to establish technology-based emission standards for major sources of certain hazardous air pollutants. Emission standards must reflect the maximum degree of reduction in emissions that the EPA determines is “achievable,” taking into consideration “the cost of achieving such emission reduction, and any non-air quality health and environmental impacts and energy requirements.”

The court, however, did rule that the EPA could not carve out a special legal defense for plant operators to cite if they sued by the public in the event of a plant malfunction.

Plant operators are not required to comply with the new rule until September 2015.


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