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Plant Changes to Cost CEMEX $3M+

Friday, April 26, 2013

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The largest U.S. producer of cement and ready-mix concrete will pay more than $3 million to settle long-running decade-old federal allegations that it illegally modified a cement plant near Rocky Mountain National Park.

Mexico-based CEMEX Inc. has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty and install more than $2 million in pollution control technology to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its facility in Lyons, CO, federal authorities said.

The settlement stems from illegal modifications that CEMEX made to the plant between 1997 and 2000, resulting in "significant net increases of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions," the Environmental Protection Agency announced April 19.

CEMEX kiln

Illegal modifications at the plant between 1997 and 2000 caused "significant net increases" in emissions of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter.

A 2009 complaint, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of EPA, alleges that the increased emissions violated the Clean Air Act's "Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Non-Attainment New Source Review" requirements, which require companies to obtain permits before modifying a facility and to install pollution control equipment if the modifications will increase pollutants.

$2.1M in Emissions Technology

CEMEX is the largest producer of cement and ready-mix concrete in the United States, capable of producing more than 15 million tons of cement per year. The company's U.S. headquarters are in Houston, TX.

The plant in Lyons, CO—just 20 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park—operates a precalciner kiln with a capacity of 550,000 tons per year. The plant, which employs about 100 people, opened in 1969. Almost all of the plant's output is shipped to the Denver metropolitan area, according to CEMEX.

Before a production turndown in 2008, CEMEX emitted more than 1,700 tons of nitrogen oxide from the 2,000-acre Lyons plant each year.


Mexico-based CEMEX is the largest producer of cement and ready-mix concrete in the United States.

As part of the settlement, CEMEX will install “Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction” technology, designed to reduce NOx emissions, on its kiln at the Colorado plant. The equipment will reduce the plant's nitrogen oxide emissions by about 870 to 1,200 tons per year, according to EPA.

The initial capital cost for installing the technology is about $600,000; in addition, injecting ammonia into the stack emissions stream, a necessary part of the process, is anticipated to cost about $1.5 million per year.

National Enforcement Initiative

The settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control harmful air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including Portland cement manufacturing facilities. The world's most widely used building material, cement is the main basic ingredient of ready-mix concrete.

“Today’s settlement will reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides, which can have serious impacts on respiratory health for communities along Colorado’s Front Range,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“Cutting these emissions will also help improve environmental quality and visibility in places like Rocky Mountain National Park.”

Thunder Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park
U.S. Park Service

Emissions from the plant may be aggravating the visibility impairment and nitrogen pollution problem at Thunder Lake and other areas of Rocky Mountain National Park, authorities said.

Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general, said the agreement "will mean cleaner air for Colorado residents downwind" of the plant.

The Lyons plant is one of 14 cement manufacturing facilities CEMEX operates in the United States. The company also operates more than 100 aggregate quarries and hundreds of ready-mix concrete plants in the United States.

Cement Risks

Nitrogen oxide emissions may cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma, according to EPA. "These emissions also contribute to acid rain, smog, and haze which impair visibility in national parks."

Clean Air Act montage

Provisions of the federal Clean Air Act require companies to obtain permits before modifying a facility and to install pollution control equipment if the modifications will increase pollutants.

Emissions from the Lyons plant "may contribute to visibility impairment and to the nitrogen pollution problem that is affecting the park’s vegetation, water quality, and trout populations," EPA said.

"Air pollution from Portland cement manufacturing facilities can also travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems."

The proposed consent decree will be lodged with U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.


Tagged categories: Building materials; Cement; Clean Air Act; Concrete; Emissions; Enforcement; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

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