Cement company may close 2 older kilns, environmental group says

Posted Monday, Feb. 27, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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A group that has worked to reduce pollution from cement kilns in the Midlothian area said Monday that the last remaining kilns using an older technology could close by 2014.

The group, Downwinders at Risk, said Ash Grove Cement Co. filed a permit amendment with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality seeking to close two of its three cement kilns in Midlothian. It would convert the third to a less-polluting production method, Downwinders said.

Ash Grove, based in Overland Park, Kan., said "it is premature" to talk about the permit "because the decision is not final." It said its "Midlothian plant already is a highly regulated and compliant operation."

Downwinders director Jim Schermbeck said he expects the state agency to approve the change.

"They're going to reduce emissions. TCEQ will let them do that," Schermbeck said.

Cement kiln operators, including Ash Grove, face a 2013 deadline to meet new emission standards from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Midlothian has 10 cement kilns, though several are idle.

According to Downwinders, which has worked for two decades to reduce pollution from cement kilns, Ash Grove will cease using a wet process in favor of a newer dry method that uses much less water and fuel. When it converts the remaining kiln to the dry process, it will also greatly expand it, so that the facility's total capacity will only drop about 20 percent, to 949,000 tons a year, Downwinders said.

Ash Grove says its Midlothian operation has 121 employees.

Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552

Twitter: @jimfuquay

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