Interesting bedfellows in Baker County

| Print |  Email
Monday, June 01, 2009
ATSAshGroveCementThe state DEQ is defending the Ash Grove cement plant against EPA rules requiring emissions to be cut by 99%.
Photo courtesy of Ash Grove Cement
The Ash Grove cement plant in Baker County is the biggest source of airborne mercury in the country, churning out 900,000 tons of cement and emitting about 2,500 pounds of mercury every year. But when the federal Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules last month that would cut the plant’s mercury emissions by 99%, Ash Grove had a surprising defender: Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Durkee limestone has an especially high elemental concentration of mercury that accounts for the plant’s higher emissions, says Linda Hayes-Gorman, an air quality specialist at DEQ. The company didn’t realize that when it built the plant in 1978, before mercury was widely considered hazardous. To make things right — and head off the inevitable emissions standards — Ash Grove willingly signed a legally binding agreement with DEQ in February 2008 requiring the plant to reduce emissions by 75% by 2012 or face fines.

“They came to us with the idea,” Hayes-Gorman says. “We were very pleased to work with them and it’s been one of the most satisfying experiences as a regulator to work with a company that voluntarily comes forward to reduce emissions in the absence of a law on the books.”

The company in March started building an activated carbon injection system to control mercury emissions with an expected price tag of between $15 million and $20 million.

Hayes-Gorman says DEQ will likely recommend to the EPA that the standards be more lenient or that the Durkee plant get an exception. Mike Hrizuk, a vice president of manufacturing at Ash Grove, says that complying with the proposed rules would be a challenge and could mean closing the plant, and Hayes-Gorman says it will be “extremely hard” for Ash Grove to comply.

“Ash Grove employs over 100 people at really good wage jobs, and there aren’t a lot of those in Baker County,” says county commissioner Fred Warner. The plant is one of the county’s largest employers, with 116 workers coming mostly from Baker City and Huntington. Warner says the plant is also a major local philanthropist.

But all the goodwill it’s cultivated may not save Ash Grove if the 99% reductions that EPA proposed come into law.
ADRIANNE JEFFRIES
 

More Articles

That's Not a Watch (This Is a Watch)

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Smartwatches are all the rage. But old-fashioned timepieces keep on ticking.


Read more...

Political theater

News
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
0107-orbizplansum14-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

The Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit drew more than 1,000 people to the Oregon Convention Center yesterday.


Read more...

The city as startup

Guest Blog
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
011415 citystartup-thumbBY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Startups in the growth phase are associated with a fresh infusion of capital — human and financial — a curiosity factor and products to disrupt the market and drive demand. Portland’s economy gives off the same aroma.


Read more...

Labor Pains

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Thinking about starting an internship program? Be careful. Navigating unpaid internships can be tricky.


Read more...

Imperial Palate

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Power Lunch at the Imperial.


Read more...

LEED for weed

News
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
012815-potcarbon-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

What is the impact of the legal pot industry on carbon emissions? An NEBC energy forum breakfast makes the case for taking the new industry’s emissions impacts very seriously.


Read more...

7 industry trends of 2015

The Latest
Friday, January 09, 2015
covertrends15-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Industry groups identify top trends for 2015.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS