Two months ago, TXI made a big deal out of shutting down four wet-process cement kilns in Midlothian -- a move hailed by Jim Schermbeck, head of Dallas-based Downwinders at Risk, as "the culmination of a 21-year fight that began in 1989 by a group of residents who found that burning hazardous waste in cement kilns was not a good idea." But that was before Schermbeck got his hands on TXI's latest permit application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which would, as Downwinders summarizes it this morning in a press release, "increase releases of six major pollutants, and burn seven new kinds of wastes in its massive kiln in Midlothian, including plastic garbage and car interiors that could contain metals, PCBs and asbestos."
Schermbeck tells Unfair Park this morning that Downwinders has spent the last few weeks researching the permit application, which was filed on August 16. Two weeks later he sent a missive to the Environmental Protection Agency, in which he wrote:
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What we've found has shocked and disappointed us. If the company gets its way, TXI will be able to burn a variety of new "non-hazardous" wastes that are capable of emitting air pollution as toxic as the officially-classified hazardous wastes it stopped burning in 2008, increase the volume of air pollution by over 2500 tons a year, and avoid all public or federal oversight of the entire process. It's reminiscent of the way TXI began burning hazardous waste in the late 1980's -- with no public hearings, and no federal involvement.
The full letter to the EPA follows. But what you see above is Downwinders' first television ad campaign, in which the group takes aim at Gov. Rick Perry's appointees to the TCEQ, which Downwinders damns in its morning release as a "co-conspirator in keeping the true public health and environmental impacts of TXI's changes from any public review."
Says Schermbeck, the ad is part of a $150,000 campaign funded by several statewide environmental groups. An Austin group contacted Downwinders about an ad campaign, Schermbeck says, and "we went out and got 'em a shot of TXI to put in the ad, because we need to get people to pay attention to this awful permit. This is not bragging, but I've read a lot of permits, and this one is written in so many generalities it's dreadful."