Cement and concrete are critical and irreplaceable building materials for our national economy, providing sustainable, resilient, safe, and energy-efficient building solutions for the development and maintenance of our nation’s infrastructure and built environment. When considered across their full life cycle, concrete and cement provide comparable if not superior performance in terms of embodied carbon, resilience, safety, environmental performance, and climate adaptability when compared against other building materials.
The cement industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States. Cement manufacturers comply with stringent requirements under environmental, health, and safety laws and regulations, and have invested billions of dollars in minimizing emissions and waste, reducing energy consumption, and using lower-carbon raw materials and alternative fuels.
Portland Cement National Emissions Standards for Air Pollutants (NESHAP)
Cement kilns must comply with strict emissions limits and testing, monitoring and reporting requirements for hazardous air pollutants. Building off an extensive record of risk and technology data provided by PCA and its members, In July 2018, EPA finalized the favorable Portland Cement NESHAP Residual Risk and Technology Review (RTR), declining to impose any new emissions control requirements on cement kilns and incorporating several technical amendments requested by PCA. Environmental groups have sought reconsideration of the rule and EPA granted reconsideration on the technical amendment revising the testing timeline for idled kilns. Environmental groups have also filed a petition for review with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. EPA has also finalized guidance in April 2020 on the implementation of the Portland Cement NESHAP. In September 2021, EPA informed PCA that it will collect data from the industry on Hydrogen Fluoride (HF), Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN), and chlorine emissions to determine whether to regulate those pollutants for the industry. EPA is also seeking data on whether Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and Activated Carbon Injection (ACI) are effective controls for hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).
Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) Update
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed expansion of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that would, if finalized, further regulate nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from industrial sources, including cement plants in 23 states. Affected cement plants would have to comply with both a NOx source cap limit and specific NOx emissions limits assigned to each individual kiln type. In the submitted comments, PCA and its members highlighted the egregious errors concerning the industry’s existing NOx emissions and the control technologies that EPA used in justifying the proposed regulations and that the proposed source cap limit would impose infeasible NOx emissions limits on existing kilns that would be more stringent than standards for new kilns. The fundamental mischaracterization of the industry resulted in significant overestimates of potential NOx reductions that the EPA said could be achieved in the proposed rule as EPA failed to recognize that a significant number of those kilns affected by the Proposed Rule have Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR), the state-of-the-art NOx emissions control technology, already installed. CSAPR is expected to be finalized in March of 2023.
Coal Combustion Residuals
Cement kilns are uniquely designed to use coal combustion residuals as low-carbon feedstocks for manufacturing, and EPA has recognized the significant environmental and economic benefits of these uses. In August 2019, EPA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to remove the 12,400-ton beneficial use threshold and impose additional storage restrictions on small inventories of CCRs temporarily stored for use in cement manufacturing. This rule was proposed despite the lack of any quantified benefit for the additional restrictions and the significant adverse environmental and economic implications should any change move forward. EPA did not finalize the proposed rule and has been working with stakeholders to gather information and reconsider further regulation of CCR piles. On December 22, 2020, EPA issued a Notice of Data Availability seeking public comment on whether the additional information collected from the NPRM and subsequent discussions with stakeholders may inform the Agency's reconsideration of the regulations concerning management of CCRs. EPA is still considering how to move forward on any additional regulation of CCRs for beneficial use.
The cement industry has a long history of safe and efficient use of alternative fuels, ranging from used tires and biomass to a wide variety of secondary and waste materials. An alternative fuel policy provides many benefits to our economy, environment, public health, and energy security. Secondary materials like post-industrial, post-commercial, post-consumer paper, plastic, and other materials have tremendous energy value. Their use as fuels helps to reduce industrial emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and other emissions, limit landfill disposal of materials that can become public health vectors and safety risks, conserve natural resources, and provide low-cost, sustainable fuels.
The cement industry is constrained by legal barriers through the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Clean Air Act (CAA),_ and the EPA regulating the use of non-hazardous secondary materials and wastes as fuels. These legal barriers prevent significant amounts of landfilled materials such as plastics, paper, fabrics/fibers, and other secondary materials from being used as fuels, despite their demonstrably lower greenhouse gas and other air emissions.
PCA seeks federal rules, guidance, and studies to support the removal of unnecessary processing requirements and administrative requirements for exempting valuable, non-hazardous secondary materials from treatment as wastes to enable these valuable materials to be used as fuels.
New Source Review
The Clean Air Act places regulatory barriers on facilities from implementing energy efficiency, emissions reductions, and other technology upgrades due to the New Source Review (NSR) Program. The NSR Program was intended to ensure that “modifications” to facilities did not “significantly increase” emissions. In practice, the well-intentioned law has resulted in inconsistent application of the program by EPA, delayed maintenance, investment, and process improvements by manufacturers, and an unduly lengthy and burdensome permitting process. PCA is advocating to reform the NSR program and reduce barriers to making greenhouse reduction and other energy efficiency improvements at cement facilities without undergoing overly burdensome permitting processes.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
The cement industry implements the best available emissions control technologies and limits its emissions to ensure states meet established NAAQS. These standards are important to cement facilities because they help determine the permitting, emission control, and transportation restrictions imposed on businesses within non-complying areas and ensure regulatory certainty.
In 2020, EPA finalized the retention of the particulate matter (PM) NAAQS, aligned with the recommendation of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, that the current standards were sufficiently protective of human health and welfare. EPA program staff had recommended in their Policy Assessment that the standard be lowered. PCA supported retaining the PM NAAQS.
In 2021, EPA announced that it is reconsidering the Trump Administration’s decision to retain the PM NAAQS. On January 6, 2023, EPA announced the proposed reconsideration of the PM NAAQS for fine and coarse particle pollution. The EPA proposed to lower the primary (health-based) annual fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standard from the current level of 12 µg/m3 to within a range of 9 µg/m3 to 10 µg/m3.
On December 31, 2020, EPA finalized the retention of the Ozone NAAQS, also aligned with the recommendation of CASAC and EPA program staff, that the current standards were sufficiently protective of public health. PCA supported retaining the Ozone NAAQS.
On October 29, 2021, EPA announced that it is reconsidering the Trump Administration’s decision to retain the Ozone NAAQS. EPA expects to complete the reconsideration by the end of 2023.