Ash Grove upgrade amplifies EPA mercury rule’s high cost

Following board approval of a $125 million capital outlay, Overland Park, Kan.-based Ash Grove Cement will incorporate a new preheater, precalciner production system at its Midlothian mill outside the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. The equipment will position the facility among Texas’ lowest emitting cement producers and become the biggest ticket investment to date tied to the Environmental Protection Agency’s portland cement National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rule, effective September 2015.

After considering a range of options stemming from the rule, notes Ash Grove Chairman Charles Sunderland, “We concluded that we wanted to continue to provide Texans with locally-made cement from our Midlothian facility for the foreseeable future, and therefore, approved the modernization project.”

The Midlothian plant employs more than 110, has a payroll exceeding $7 million, and indirectly creates 1,200 local jobs. “We have generations of employees working here, many with decades of service, and this decision demonstrates that Ash Grove will maintain its strong north Texas presence for our families, community and customers,” adds Midlothian Plant Manager Kevin Blankenship.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted Ash Grove a one-year extension to comply with the NESHAP rule, whose original compliance target of September 2013 has now been moved back two years. The Midlothian mill will run while new equipment is installed.

“By investing in this key technology upgrade, our Ash Grove plant will remain viable, competitive and environmentally friendly for many years to come. That’s important not just to Midlothian, but the DFW region as a whole,” affirms Midlothian Mayor Bill Houston.

“From a business perspective, Ash Grove’s decision to approve the Midlothian plant modernization project ensures that as our economy in the Dallas Ft. Worth region continues to grow, there will be a great supply of locally made cement,” according to Dallas Regional Chamber President Jim Oberwetter.

“For years, I’ve seen these companies scrutinized by groups who would rather shut them down and force Texans to rely on imported cement. In spite of that, in a bad economy, Ash Grove has chosen to continue to operate in Texas and further improve on its record of reducing air emissions,” says U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-6).