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‘whores’ of Texas are upon you all the live long day……..

November 15, 2011

Downwinders at Risk reveals:

New TXI waste-burning permit awarded with no public comment

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

(Dallas)—- Only three years after it finally stopped the controversial practice of burning hazardous waste at its Midlothian cement plant, TXI was awarded a permit in June by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality allowing the company to burn at least 12 new kinds of industrial wastes in its kiln without any public notice, comment, or hearing, and based only on other cement plants’ data.

“This is the worst case of intentionally avoiding public participation since 1987, when the same company began burning hazardous waste without public knowledge” said Jim Schermbeck, director of Downwinders at Risk, the DFW-based group originally formed to fight the burning of wastes in Midlothian cement kilns in 1994. “State and company officials have learned nothing from the past 20 years except how to further exclude the public from decisions about these cement plants affecting our health and property.”

Because the TCEQ ruled that “net emissions” would not increase, it granted TXI a permit modification in June that required no public notice of any kind. That conclusion of no increase in overall emissions is based on TXI-submitted reports of other cement plants burning specific wastes and not actual “test burns” at its Midlothian dry kiln of at least a dozen industrial wastes it plans to burn in various combinations, including shredded car waste, whole tires, carpeting and plastic garbage.

TCEQ’s “no net increases” in emissions is also based on TXI receiving emissions “credits” for its four shuttered old wet kilns, closed since 2008. Even though they haven’t operated in three years, TXI gets to count the absence of pollution from these old kilns against the increases in pollution caused by the burning of these new wastes in their newer dry kiln. Since the wet kilns had only the most rudimentary pollution controls, their total pollution tonnage is enormous. Without the emissions credits from these closed wet kilns, the new permit would result in net emission increases. In reality, pollution will increase at TXI’s dry kiln as a result of this permit.

TCEQ gave TXI the new permit without any public notice or chance to challenge it despite the fact that TXI is on the EPA’s “Watch List” of 1600 “High Priority Violators” identified last week through an investigation by National Public Radio.

Representatives of Downwinders found out about the modification on Monday only after calling the TCEQ Austin headquarters about the status of another Midlothian cement plant. None of the public officials or downwind cities that requested a public hearing on the plant’s general permit two years ago were apparently informed of the new permit either. TXI never issued a press release about getting the permit, nor did it take out any ads in the Midlothian paper to advertise its new won right to burn a variety of solid, liquid and gaseous wastes.

That’s in contrast to the behavior of the company only last year. Downwinders’ board members accepted invitations to TXI’s plant twice in 2010 to get briefed by company officials about the permit.

According to Schermbeck, TXI even went so far as to hire an Austin-based consulting company called Carbon Shrinks to negotiate with Downwinders on a list of “alternative fuels” to which we might consent to without a regulatory fight.

These negotiations produced an Excel spreadsheet that compared the metals, sulfur, chlorine, and BTU content of coal to the 12 fuels TXI wanted to burn. Out of the 20 chemical characteristics used as measuring sticks, the potential fuels most similar to, or better than, coal were Switchgrass (13 characteristics the same or less polluting than coal), Wheatstraw (13), “Wood Products” (7), wall board (7), “liquid wastes” (6), carpet (5), “plastics” (3), “biosolids” (3), petroleum coke (3), tires (2), and shredded car waste (1).

Back then, TXI was writing that it “remains committed to working with Downwinders on their concerns and comments on the permit amendment application, and will continue to reach out to meet with all of their members who are designated to represent the group.”

Turns out, not so much.

“The last time we heard from TXI, their contractor was headed back to Austin with our suggestion that we work together on an aggressive program that would concentrate on agricultural wastes and fuels, benefiting Ellis County ag producers, and exclude all the wastes that had less than 6 or 7 chemical characteristics similar to or better than coal, said Schermbeck. “The next thing we hear is the news from a state regulatory staffer that the company got the permit.”

“I guess TXI didn’t like our list.”

It’s the results of that list that now concern Schermbeck and others in the group who met with the company and participated in the negotiations. TXI submitted test results from different cement plants that had burned the kind of wastes the Midlothian kiln now has permission to burn. Those results showed shredded car wastes with hazardous levels of lead and an average of ten times the Mercury level as coal. The Carpet-burning and tire-burning tests TXI submitted showed both wastes emitting much higher levels of chromium and cadmium. Burning plastics causes the conditions leading to dioxin formation, and cement plants are already a leading source of dioxin pollution.

“These are wastes that come in the plant gate under the title of “non-hazardous” but leave the plant’s smokestack as toxic releases.”

Since TXI cherry-picked the test data to justify its permit request to TCEQ, and each example the company cited was usually only limited to a single plant burning a single kind of waste, residents downwind of TXI really don’t have any idea what to expect when the company starts burning countless combinations of the new wastes for the first time in its Midlothian kiln.

Sue Pope, the matriarchal founder of Downwinders, was saddened that the company seemed to be repeating the same mistake it made in 1987 when it began burning hazardous wastess.”We’re once again the guinea pigs in a massive experiment hatched by TXI and permitted by the state without public input. This didn’t turn out well the first time, and unfortunately, I don’t think it will end any better the second time around.”

Schermbeck saw the secretive process as a back-handed compliment to his groups permitting prowess. He pointed out how Downwinders had used a similar claim of no increase in emissions at the near-by Holcim cement plant to eventually win millions in new pollution controls and a settlement. This time, the state wasn’t going to give them, or anyone else that chance.

“In a way, it’s the ultimate compliment to our skills as citizen advocates that a huge corporation like TXI, as well as a huge state agency like the TCEQ, could both be so scared of facing Downwinders and its allies in a permit fight, that they finagle a way to avoid it at all costs, including the cost to democracy and public health.”


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