By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 21, 2009 7:51 PM
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new rule today that would slash mercury emissions from the nation's cement kilns, the fourth-largest domestic emitters of such pollution.
The agency estimated that, when fully implemented in 2013, the proposed rule -- which is subject to a 60-day comment period -- would cut the industry's mercury emissions by 81 percent and its sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent. The rule would prevent between 620 and 1,600 deaths, according to the EPA, and produce annual benefits of between $4.4 billion and $11 billion while costing the nation's 100 cement kilns between $222 million and $684 million a year.
Andy O'Hare, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Portland Cement Association, said in a statement that the group was reviewing the proposal but "continues to support regulatory approaches that allow the industry to produce the cement necessary for constructing and rebuilding the nation's infrastructure in an environmentally responsible manner."
The issue of how to control the kilns' toxic emissions has been the subject of court battles dating back to the Clinton administration. Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew, who has litigated the issue for a dozen years, called the proposal "really significant. This is one of the most polluting industries in the country."