Last month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally issued new air pollution standards for cement kilns and industrial boilers. This seemed like good news but the rules were weakened, leaving many asking if they are enough. With three cement plants in Oklahoma, this is an issue that will impact the lives of many Oklahomans. The plants are in Ada, Tulsa, and Pryor. Both the Ada plant and the Pryor plant are High Priority Violators of the Clean Air Act.
The EPA says the rules will,
“…achieve extensive public health protections by slashing toxic air pollution, including mercury and particle pollution, while at the same addressing feedback provided by industry and labor groups, increasing the rule’s flexibility and dramatically reducing costs.”
However, the new standards are being delayed two or three years for cement plants. The EPA is also finalizing the definition of solid waste, this will allow cement pants to burn tires, railroad ties, and plastic bottles.
With asthma in Oklahoma already above the national rates, with an estimated 241,011 adults and 88,825 children living with asthma, these new rules will help but are they going to be enough? According to the EPA’s estimates, not having more regulations could cost up to 2,500 lives and more suffering for people living with asthma.
The American Lung Association is also concerned, talking about their disappointment in a press release,
“We are most disappointed by the new EPA standard to limit hazardous air pollution from cement plants. EPA had originally set strong standards to limit the second largest source of toxic mercury emissions in the country. Industry pressure resulted in weaker standards and delayed implementation. Public health will continue to suffer unnecessarily because of pollution from cement plants. The American Lung Association will continue to urge EPA to uphold its responsibility as required by the Clean Air Act and clean up air pollution from all sources and protect public health.”
With many Oklahoman’s lives at risk, you have to ask why we aren’t doing more to clean our air. Jobs are important but can we really put a price on clean air and human lives?
What do you think about the new rules, do you feel they are strong enough or not? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page.