Home Archives June 2009 Interesting bedfellows in Baker County

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

The solution to youth unemployment

News
Thursday, February 27, 2014
02.27.14 Thumbnail TeenworkBY ERIC FRUITS

Because they have little chance of working for someone else, today’s teens need to be entrepreneurs. But, first, we must teach our teens that entrepreneurship starts small.


Read more...

Speeding up science

News
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
02.25.14 Thumbnail MedwasteBY JOE ROJAS-BURKE | OB BLOGGER

The medical research enterprise wastes tens of billions of dollars a year on irrelevant studies. It’s time to fix it.


Read more...

Buy the book

News
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
2 03.25.14 thumb bookshopBY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER

Oregon is home not only to many fine writers but also several accomplished small publishers.


Read more...

Eking out a living

News
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
04.08.14 thumb ourtable-coopfarmsBY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER

It may be obvious, but most farmers don’t make a lot of money. According to preliminary data from the 2012 Agriculture Census, 52% of America’s 2.1 million principal farm-operators don’t call farming their primary occupation. Farm cooperatives may offer a solution.


Read more...

Banishing oil burners reaps benefits for schools

News
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
04.02.14 thumb co2schoolsBY APRIL STREETER | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Three years ago, PPS set out to begin to convert the 1930s-era boilers from diesel/bunker fuel to cleaner-burning natural gas. Oregon’s largest school district has realized impressive carbon dioxide emissions reductions, setting an example for public and private institutions.


Read more...

The 2014 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon

News
Friday, February 28, 2014

100best14logo ThumbnailThe 21st annual 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon list was announced Thursday night at an awards dinner at the Oregon Convention Center.


Read more...

Barrister bands

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
IMG 4691BY LINDA BAKER

An intellectual property attorney by day, 48-year-old Stoll Berne attorney Tim DeJong is a singer and guitarist by night.


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