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Reference News Release: Illinois cement plant agrees to reduce harmful emissions First National Settlement to Reduce Emissions from Cement Plants

Release Date: 09/09/2008
Contact Information: William Omohundro, 312-353-8254,

No. 08-OPA138

CHICAGO (Sept.9, 2008) - Two companies that own and operate a Portland cement manufacturing facility near Dixon, Ill., have agreed to install state-of-the-art pollution controls to reduce harmful air emissions and pay an $800,000 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice announced today.

St. Marys Cement Inc., (U.S.) and St. Barbara Cement Inc., have agreed to have specified pollution control equipment in operation by April 30, 2009, and from that date on to achieve required emission reductions at three of their four cement production lines at their Dixon facility. The two companies have also agreed to replace a kiln at the facility with technology to reduce emissions or to permanently shut it down. These actions will reduce combined emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 2,700 tons each year.

This is the first settlement secured by the federal government as part of its enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from Portland cement manufacturing facilities under the Clean Air Act's New Source Review requirements. The Portland cement industry is the third largest source of industrial emissions in the nation, emitting approximately180,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide and NOx .

"This precedent-setting settlement is the first for the Portland cement industry," said Ronald J. Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are pleased that this settlement will provide important environmental benefits without the need for complicated and prolonged litigation."

"This settlement marks a significant step in controlling harmful nitrogen oxide emissions at the Dixon Plant, and from Portland cement manufacturing facilities in general," said Cheryl Newton, acting director of the Air and Radiation Division of the EPA's Region 5 Office in Chicago. "The installation of state-of-the-art technology sets an important benchmark for the control of this harmful pollutant. EPA is committed to ensuring that cement manufacturers comply with the Clean Air Act."

In a complaint filed yesterday, concurrently with the lodging of the consent decree, the federal government alleged that the companies illegally operated four cement kilns at the Dixon plant after they had been modified. These modifications allowed the kilns to emit more pollution. Specifically, the government cited the companies for operating the modified kilns without obtaining necessary permits and installing required pollution control equipment as required by the Clean Air Act.

In 2006, EPA focused on improving compliance at Portland cement manufacturing facilities across country due to widespread noncompliance and significant amounts of NOx and sulfur dioxide emitted during the manufacturing process.

Portland cement, which is used in virtually all types of concrete, is produced by heating limestone, clay, and other raw materials at high temperatures to form "clinker," which is then blended with gypsum and ground into a fine powder. The fine powder is known as Portland cement, and is mixed with water, sand, and stone to form concrete.

NOx emissions cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. This pollutant is also a significant contributor to acid rain, smog, and haze which impair visibility in national parks. Air pollution from Portland cement manufacturing facilities can travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.

The proposed consent decree was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at