OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — State environmental officials cleared the way for a Louisville, Neb., cement plant to burn tires as fuel, but state Sierra Club vowed Tuesday to fight the approval.
Ash Grove Cement Company of Overland Park, Kan., will buy permanent equipment to burn an estimated 1 million tires a year, company spokesman Lance Latham said.
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality based its decision on data from a 2005 six-week trial burn, which showed reductions in nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide and dust emissions when a mix of scrap tires and coal was burned to provide power instead of coal alone.
''There are very slight increases in some metal emissions, but they are still well below any regulatory level of concern,'' said Mike Linder, the department's director.
The Nebraska chapter of the Sierra Club disagrees.
''Those are the products that last in the environment forever,'' spokeswoman Cammy Watkins said. ''Even just a small amount of increase is going to make a difference because it's going to grow year after year.''
Watkins criticized the state for approving the plant's license to burn the fuel without holding a public meeting.
Linder said the only permit changes needed were to increase monitoring and did not require a public hearing.
Watkins said the Sierra Club would ask the Environmental Protection Agency to review the approval.
Burning tires is not considered recycling but is preferable to scrapping them in piles or putting them in landfills, according to the EPA's Web site.
Of some 130 million tires burned as fuel each year, cement plants burn about 53 million, according to the EPA.