EPA sues Cemex over air quality

first_imgThe lawsuit says Cemex California LLC made major improvements in 1997 and 2000 without getting permits required by the Clean Air Act, a measure the federal government adopted in 1990 to set limits on emissions. The company also failed to install high-tech emissions controls that would limit pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, which cause smog and trigger breathing difficulties in children and the elderly. Cemex declined calls Wednesday seeking comment. The company’s Web site says the $190million expansion helped the plant lower allowable emissions substantially while increasing production. “The final design selected meets the best available control technology for reducing air emissions,” the site says. “Also, state-of-the-art combustion controls were chosen to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.” The EPA says Victorville’s air doesn’t meet federal standards for ozone or particulate matter, but it would not comment on the role Cemex plays in perpetuating the problem. “The facility is a `major’ source of air pollution, however, under the Clean Air Act,” Arcaute said. Should the EPA prevail in court, Cemex could face fines of up to $27,500 a day for violations that occurred from January1997 to March2004, and up to $32,500 a day for violations after March. The complaint does not suggest a specific penalty, and the EPA declined to comment on when the violations began or what date penalties might begin accruing. The EPA had cited Cemex for the Victorville violation in September 2005, but the parties have been unable to resolve their differences in the interim. A branch of the agency that oversees the Midwest cited a Cemex facility in Fairborn, Ohio, in the past year or so, Arcaute said. The plant operations differ from the quarry proposed by Cemex in Soledad Canyon, which is on hold for now. The site – where Cemex planned to extract 56.1million tons of sand and gravel during a 20-year span – is outside Santa Clarita city limits between Canyon Country and Agua Dulce, but no processing plant was to be built there. Cemex officials said recently they will try to negotiate a compromise with the city of Santa Clarita in lieu of opening the mine in 2008. In a show of good faith, the city disbanded its approximately $8million campaign – which had gained traction nationwide – to scale down or block the mine. Four months before joining forces with Cemex in February, the city bonded with environmental groups and others to notify the mining giant its air-quality violations were under the newly formed group’s microscope. The United National Alliance sent a letter to Gilberto Perez, president of Cemex-U.S. Operations, noting 72,067 air-quality citations levied against Cemex, and a city report says Cemex has been fined $4.5million for violations of state and federal water and air-quality requirements in at least eight states. At the time, Cemex countered the group’s action, saying it was based on failed legal or public cases against the company and that it reeked of sour grapes. Both the city of Victorville and the agency that regulates air-quality standards for the Victorville region say Cemex has been a good neighbor in that community. “In terms of any kind of major violations, I can’t think of anything major or outstanding,” said Eldon Heaston, executive director of the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District. “They usually are in compliance.” Victorville also had no complaints, city spokeswoman Yvonne Hester said. The Mojave Desert district oversees a 22,000-mile territory in the desert portions of San Bernardino County and eastern Riverside County, home to Victoville, Barstow, 29 Palms and Apple Valley. The agency recognized Cemex for helping to prevent or control air pollution in the community. [email protected] (661) 257-5255 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SANTA CLARITA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has lodged a lawsuit against Cemex in federal court in Riverside claiming the company – which plans an aggregate quarry on the outskirts of Santa Clarita – failed to adopt proper measures to cut air pollution at its Victorville cement plant, one of the largest of its kind in the country. In a complaint filed Monday, the Department of Justice accuses Cemex of failing to install the protective devices despite spending millions to renovate the facility during the past decade. “What the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants is that Cemex install proper air pollution controls that could reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in the general Victorville area,” agency spokesman Francisco Arcaute said. “That’s why we’ve taken these legal steps.” At the plant, rocks are pulverized to make cement, which is the binding agent in concrete used to build homes, roads and bridges. last_img