The US cement industry has warned that stringent regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will push the industry overseas.

The EPA's proposed changes to the current National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Pollutants (NESHAP) for the Portland Cement industry would see new limits put on emissions of mercury, hydrocarbons, hydrochloric acid and particulates from cement kilns.

The Portland Cement association says the new requirements will damage the economic viability of many US cement plants. It says this could lead to cement production moving outside the US, leading to increased unemployment and reliance on cement imports

Andy O'Hare, PCA vice president for regulatory affairs said, "Pushing cement production to other countries would ‘OPEC' the industry and make the US dependent on cement imports. In addition, because these countries have fewer regulations, global emissions of mercury and carbon dioxide could actually increase."

However, health and environmental groups have spoken out in favour of the EPA regulations at public hearings to scrutinise the proposed changes.

EPA estimates show it could cost the industry as much as US$ 685 million to comply with the new regulations. The PCA says US cement consumption stood at 110 million tonnes in 2007, so the cost of the legislation could add just over US$ 6 to the cost of a tonne of cement.

However, the EPA also estimates the savings due to the regulations could be as much as US$ 11 billion in the first year, including the prevention of anywhere between 620 and 1600 premature deaths in the US.

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