CEMEX Poisons Local Community, Gets Slap on the Wrist
CEMEX, Inc., which owns and operates a cement plant in Lyons, Colorado, just agreed to pay over one million dollars in fines and penalties for violating clean air laws, yet it continues to deny that its cement plant threatens clean air and community health.
In a press release from CEMEX, plant manager Steve Goodrich claims that CEMEX has improved operations, improved communications, and improved its outreach with neighbors. Give me a break.
CEMEX has consistently violated clean air laws for the last several years, placing its neighbors squarely at risk. Most recently, the cement plant violated limits on dioxin emissions--over 100,000 times. Dioxins are exceptionally toxic compounds; there is no safe level of exposure known. The state of Colorado issued notices of violation to CEMEX in 2005 and 2006 for these and many other violations.
Now CEMEX is paying over one million dollars in fines, one of the largest ever paid by a polluter in Colorado. And CEMEX has the audacity to claim it has made improvements?
The settlement between the state of Colorado and CEMEX may resolve the most recent violations, but it doesn't do anything to help mend the immense rift the company has created between itself and the local community. Today's settlement seems a clear admission that the company has illegally polluted the air we breathe, placing families and children at risk. A million dollars doesn't even begin to fix the problems CEMEX has caused.
In fact, a million dollars is pennies to CEMEX. According to the company's latest reports, it expects to make $4.3 billion in revenue just for the fourth quarter of 2006. A million dollar fine is only 0.02% of one quarter's revenue. At this rate, CEMEX is practically being paid to violate clean air laws.
CEMEX, Inc. may feel that polluting our air and forking over pennies is an improvement. For those living under the plume of CEMEX's stack, this seems to be another slap in the face.
The silver lining in all this is that citizens are not going to rest on this settlement. CEMEX will be held accountable. And while the most recent settlement doesn't get us to where we need to be, it gets us a little closer. Now it's time to pick up the momentum.