Arlington and Dallas will consider resolutions this week to end green-cement policies giving preference to manufacturers with the lowest emissions rate, as part of a proposed settlement of a lawsuit with cement manufacturer Ash Grove Texas L.P.
While both cities say the proposed settlement would reduce nitrogen oxides, one of the precursors of ozone, by 10 percent, environmentalists contend that the agreement would undercut efforts to force Ash Grove to close its three wet kilns in Midlothian, the last three left in Texas.
The remaining cement plants in Midlothian are dry kilns, which produce less pollution.
"The entire point of the original green cement policy was to encourage a single 'industry-best' standard applicable to all kilns regardless of kiln type," said Jim Schermbeck, executive director of Downwinders at Risk, which has been fighting Midlothian plant emissions for more than two decades.
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"This settlement does exactly the opposite, carving out four special categories, including one just for the last three wet kilns in Texas at Ash Grove," Schermbeck said. "That category allows Ash Grove to release two to three times as much NOx [nitrogen oxides] pollution as any other cement plant in North Texas."
Jacqueline Clark, an Ash Grove spokeswoman, said it was premature for the company, based in Overland Park, Kan., to comment. The agreement would require Ash Grove to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 10 percent and would be enforceable as part of the settlement.
Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said Monday that he wasn't thrilled with the settlement offer and has not decided whether to vote for it.
"It is not an easy decision," Cluck said. "I would like to have more than the 10 percent that they are offering. I'm still looking at it. If we could delay it, I would like to delay the decision."
The city staff report for today's meeting states that the "proposed resolution will allow the cities of Arlington and Dallas to settle the federal lawsuit with Ash Grove. Ash Grove, will, correspondingly, agree to operate its cement plant at lower NOx emission limits for all cement produced in Midlothian."
Ash Grove sued Tarrant County, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth and three other cities in 2008, claiming that their green-cement policies violated state laws by giving preference during bidding to companies using environmentally friendly methods.
Only Arlington and Dallas ultimately chose to fight the issue in court.
The Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote on the issue Wednesday. The Dallas city staff report said Ash Grove had no incentive to reduce emissions since it could not qualify for any city contracts under the green-cement policies.
During court-ordered mediation, Ash Grove agreed to drop its lawsuit if it could compete for contracts in both cities.
Schermbeck said Monday that local environmental groups are simply hoping to persuade both city councils to postpone the vote so they can educate them that it is not a good deal for the region's air quality. After the policy was enacted, another Midlothian cement manufacturer, Texas Industries, decided to close four wet kilns.
Schermbeck said this agreement would allow Ash Grove to compete for city contracts while only making token reductions.
"By contrast, when TXI decided to shut down its four wet kilns, in part as a response to the cities' current green cement policy, it decreased NOx pollution by 2,250 tons a year with another 2,000-ton decrease in other harmful pollutants like particulate matter [soot], sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and CO
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698