Kansas-based Ash Grove Cement Co. has agreed to pay a $2.5 million penalty and invest about $30 million in pollution control technology at nine of its cement manufacturing plants, including one in Louisville, Neb.
Also as part of resolving alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act, the company has agreed to spend $750,000 to mitigate the effects of excess past emissions from several of its facilities.
The agreement will reduce more than 17,000 tons of harmful nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide pollution each year across the company's plants, the EPA said.
“Today's settlement will reduce air pollution that can harm human health and contribute to acid rain, haze and smog,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement.
Ash Grove officials contend that their plants complied with the Clean Air Act and that the company works to minimize its environmental impacts. They said the EPA initiative has been “quite costly.”
“Rather than continue the debate, we believe that our effort is better spent collaborating on ways to further reduce our environmental footprint, which is the path we chose by signing this agreement,” said Michael J. Hrizuk, vice president of manufacturing.
Company spokeswoman Jacqueline Clark said the emissions are a result of the fuel, primarily coal, used to power the cement kilns and of the process of converting raw material, such as limestone, into cement.
The agreement is expected to take effect in July when the terms of the agreement have completed the required public notice period and are court-approved. Individual plant compliance dates vary under the agreement, the company said.
Eight states, including Nebraska, joined the federal government in the settlement. The other plants affected are in Foreman, Ark.; Inkom, Idaho; Chanute, Kan.; Clancy, Mont.; Durkee, Ore.; Leamington, Utah; Seattle; and Midlothian, Texas.
The Louisville plant has come under fire in the past by local environmental group Eastern Nebraskans Against Chemical Trespass, or ENACT. Jarel Vinduska of ENACT said he was glad to see the EPA take action but was unsure how the company would mitigate the effects of past emissions.
“Once pollution is released into the environment, you can't recover it,” Vinduska said.
Louisville Mayor Alan Mueller said: “Ash Grove Cement Company has always been a great corporate citizen to the city of Louisville and, in the always changing world we live in, I'm confident that Ash Grove will make the needed changes in a timely and efficient matter. We support them and wish them the best.”
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