Interesting bedfellows in Baker County

| Print |  Email
Archives - June 2009
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

Downtime with John Helmick

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play: CEO of Gorilla Capital.


Read more...

Photo Diary: Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Latest
Thursday, May 14, 2015
IMG 8469BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.


Read more...

Nine lives

Linda Baker
Friday, May 22, 2015
0f4f7bfBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Roy Kaufmann always lands on his feet.


Read more...

Fixing Oregon’s broken roads

The Latest
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
RUCCostComparison rev4-30BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

The technology at the center of Oregon’s road usage fee reform.


Read more...

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.


Read more...

Department of Self-Promotion

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 17, 2015

061715-awards1Oregon Business wins journalism awards.


Read more...

No Boundaries

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Floor plans embrace the great wide open.


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