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NY joins fight to maintain EPA regs on cement

Feb 15, 2011 11:06 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Mercury in Portland cement is the new political battleground, with New York joining five other states to fight House Republicans on their proposed rollback of EPA regs ruling the sissue."][/caption]Just as the collective angina has started over congressional Republicans' efforts to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating emissions of toxic mercury from cement kilns, a topic of interest to our coverage region given the number of cement operations lining the Hudson in Greene and Albany counties, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has lined up to make New York one of five state attorneys general pushing back against the move. The Times Union reports that in a February 14 letter, the attorney generals from New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Massachusetts urged Rep. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to withdraw efforts to undo the cement plant rules. The rules, issued by EPA in September, limit mercury and other emissions from Portland cement plants nationwide, of which New York has the Lafarge plant in Ravena, the Holcim plant in Catskill and the Lehigh Northeast plant in Glens Falls. Collectively, these three plants discharge roughly 170 pounds of mercury emissions into New York's air each year -- about 20 percent of all mercury emitted annually in the state. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause developmental problems, particularly in children and developing fetuses. Anticipating the new federal mercury rules, the state Department of Environmental Conservation last year imposed the first-ever mercury limits on the Lafarge plant as part of a renewal of its federal air pollution permit. The federal rules would impose even greater reductions. Lafarge is currently in the midst of a full review of plans to expand its operations in southern Albany county, against growing local opposition. In 2007, the same five states now suing over mercury standards successfully sued the EPA for failing to include mercury limits on cement plants in the first place.

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