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As EPA considers looser regulations on cement kilns, some locals worry about implications for Titan


Just as environmental groups expected to see stricter requirements for emissions from cement plants, the Environmental Protection Agency is now considering a proposal to relax the rules. 

WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports that some local environmental activists are more concerned than ever about the prospect of a Titan Cement plant in the area.

The tighter regulations were set to go into effect next year.  But in June, the EPA proposed amendments to National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants in response to lobbying efforts from the Portland Cement Association – an advocacy group for the cement industry. 

While all of the potential rule changes are of great concern to Mike Giles of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, he finds one element particularly troubling. 

“If Titan goes through all their permitting and actually gets permits to build their facility, and EPA loosens the rules, the amount of particulate matter allowed to be emitted by cement plants will increase.” 

Particulate matter is often invisible, but it can create serious public health risks, says Dr. Neil Carman, a former air pollution control inspector for the State of Texas who now works for The Sierra Club. 

“And so we know today from hundreds of health studies especially in urban areas that on a bad air day, when the level of these little fine particles increases, that more people go to the hospitals. They go to the emergency rooms, the medical clinics.  They’re having a hard time breathing.  There’s more premature heart attacks in healthy people.  And the number of premature deaths go up.” 

The EPA corroborates that fact. 

In a statement from Carolinas Cement, General Manager Bob Odom says Titan America supports the manufacture of cement through environmentally and socially responsible business practices.  He says Carolinas Cement will have the most advanced combination of pollution controls of any cement plant in the world.  And, he says, the company looks forward to bringing much-needed, good jobs to New Hanover County. 

The EPA held a public hearing in Texas yesterday, but the window for public comment on the proposed rule changes doesn’t close until midnight tonight. 

To comment on the EPA's proposal, identify your comments as  Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0817 and use one of the following methods:

  • Federal Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
  • Agency Web site: http://www.epa.gov/oar/docket.html. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on the EPA Air and Radiation Docket Web site.
  • Email: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov. Include EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0817 in the subject line of the message.
  • Fax: Fax your comments to: (202) 566-9744, Attention Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0817.
  • Mail: Send your comments to: The EPA Docket Center (EPA/ DC), Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0817. Please include a total of two copies. In addition, please mail a copy of your comments on the information collection provisions to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Attn: Desk Officer for the EPA, 725 17th Street NW., Washington, DC 20503.

All comments must be submitted by midnight on Friday, August 17, 2012.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.