Court Rejects Industry Attempts to Delay Public Health Protections for Pollution from Cement Plants

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., rejected industry arguments to overturn critical public health protections put in place by EPA last year.

In August last year, the EPA put in place regulations to reduce toxic air pollution from cement kilns and significant reductions in pollution are expected from the rule:

  • Mercury – 16,600 pounds or 92 percent
  • Total hydrocarbons – 10,600 tons or 83 percent
  • Particulate Matter – 11,500 tons or 92 percent
  • Acid gases – (measured as hydrochloric acid): 5,800 tons or 97 percent
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)– 110,000 tons or 78 percent
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – 6,600 tons or 5 percent 

Mercury is particularly harmful to babies and young children: prenatal exposure to even low doses of mercury is associated with childhood deficits in IQ, attention span and physical coordination. Even tiny amounts of mercury can pollute water bodies and contaminate fish we later eat. The rule reduces mercury pollution, as well as pollution from hydrochloric acid gas, which irritates the lungs and can trigger asthma attacks; soot (particulate matter), which can lead to premature death and respiratory ailments; and other toxic pollutants such as benzene, lead and arsenic.

The cement industry challenged EPA’s rule in court to try and overturn and delay the public health protections. As my colleague, David Doniger, writes in his blog here, the Court largely rejected industry’s arguments and, most importantly, preserves these important protections against toxic air pollutants like mercury and soot.