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Environmental Enforcement: Cement Maker to Pay $1.4 Million Penalty

Cemex, Inc., one of the largest cement producers in the United States, has agreed to pay a $1.4 million penalty for Clean Air Act violations at its cement plant in Fairborn, Ohio, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.

In addition to the penalty, Houston-based Cemex agreed to spend an estimated $2 million on pollution controls that will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), pollutants that can contribute to childhood asthma, acid rain, and smog.

The penalty is a result of modifications Cemex made to its cement plant without obtaining a permit required under the Clean Air Act.  According to the EPA, Cemex’s plant modifications increased air emissions at the plant, but Cemex did not install controls to reduce the level of the additional emissions.

Cemex agreed to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies that will reduce annual emissions of NOx by approximately 2,300 tons and SO2 by approximately 288 tons, according to EPA estimates.

Cemex, a global building materials company, provides cement and concrete products to construction projects in every sector: industrial, commercial, residential and municipal. It has more than 100 aggregate quarries and hundreds of ready-mix concrete plants in the U.S.

In January 2009, the company agreed to reduce emissions and pay a $2 million fine to settle Clean Air Act violations at another one of its cement plants, located in Victorville, Calif.

Cemex president Gilberto Perez told the Dayton Daily News the company voluntarily complied with the agreement, but denies some of the EPA’s allegations. “I am surprised and disappointed with the implications that the agency is making in their press release, which have no foundation in fact. These implications damage the credibility of the agency,” he said.

Cemex spokeswoman Heather Chilivetis told the Dayton Daily News the suggestion that the plant’s emissions compromise residents’ health is “simply false.”

Chilivetis said “air quality around the Fairborn plant exceeds federal ambient air quality standards,” and noted that “the plant is, and has always been, in compliance with its air operating permits.”

Of the $1.4 million penalty, $932,400 will go to the federal government, $233,800 to the statie of Ohio and another $233,800 to the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, which covers six Ohio counties. Of the amount going to Ohio, $46,760 will be directed to the state’s Clean Diesel School Bus Program Fund.

The proposed consent decree (pdf) lodged with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

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