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November 27, 2008

Cement company sues Tarrant, Fort Worth, Arlington over "green" rules

Dallas was the first government in the area to require contractors bidding for jobs to use cement produced by a dry process kiln, according to the lawsuit. In May 2007, the city said it would give preference to cement from low-polluting plants.

DALLAS -- A Texas-based cement company filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that Tarrant County and the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington, along with other area governments, violate state laws by giving preference during bidding to companies using cement made using environmentally friendly methods.

Dallas was the first government in the area to require contractors bidding for jobs to use cement produced by a dry process kiln, according to the lawsuit. In May 2007, the city said it would give preference to cement from low-polluting plants.

Fort Worth passed a similar resolution in October 2007. Arlington, Plano, Tarrant County and the Dallas school district adopted similar measures.

The aim was to pressure cement kiln operators in Midlothian to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides they produce. Emissions from three cement plants in the Midlothian area are a significant source of industrial air pollution blown into cities in Tarrant and Dallas counties, environmental officials have said.

Representatives of Dallas, Plano and Fort Worth did not immediately return messages Wednesday left by The Associated Press.

Arlington City Attorney Jay Doegey declined to talk about the lawsuit but said the city adopted the bidding measure “for environmental reasons.”

Midlothian-based Ash Grove Cement Co. said in a statement that such practices violate state public contracting laws. Local municipalities can evaluate only “the quality and price of the product or service to be purchased” and can’t give preference “to one bid over another for air quality purposes,” according to an Ash Grove statement.

These bidding resolutions restricting how cement is produced limit competition for municipal contracts in North Texas, an Ash Grove official said.

Ash Grove attorney Marshall J. Doke said “this is not a case about air quality.”

“In a rush to pass the cement purchasing resolutions under a slogan of ‘cleaner air,’ the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and Plano led the charge in ignoring public contracting rules ..." Doke said. “Ash Grove is alleging that the defendants ignored state and federal law by taking actions that stifled competition.”

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