Local D408 members rally to save jobs

International and L-D408 officials meet with Holcim US CEO Patrick Dolberg, at right. L. to r., Bryan Sandefur, L-D408 vice president; Paul Neal, L-D408 president; Abe Breehey, asst. director of government affairs; Jim Pressley, executive director, CLGAW Services Division; and Carey Allen, director of CLGAW Services Division. Photos by Trumpie Photography (Dave Trumpie)

Michigan pollution rule threatens Holcim cement plant

IN AN ATTEMPT to keep a cement plant operating in Dundee, Mich. — and to protect jobs there — dozens of Boilermakers from Local D408 traveled to Lansing, the state capital, Sept. 5 for a public hearing before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The DEQ is holding hearings before implementing an air quality rule targeting the plant, which is owned by Holcim (USA) Inc. The rule would take effect May 1, 2008.

The cement plant employs nearly 400 people, 113 of them Local D408 members. Holcim has mounted a vigorous campaign to halt DEQ from enforcing the rule, which would require the company to invest $6.5 million on technology to cut emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A byproduct of the limestone used in making cement, VOCs contribute to smog on sunny days. Holcim said the technology proposed by the state is not guaranteed to work and that most VOCs in the region come from auto emissions.

In setting the new rule, the state of Michigan hopes to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air standards. The rule would require Holcim to reduce VOCs by 90 percent from May 1 through Sept. 30 of each year.

“This is the plant’s busiest time of the year,” said Carey Allen, director of CLGAW division services. “If Holcim had to restrict or cease operations during this period, they would likely have to shut down the plant.” Allen also attended the Sept. 5 hearing, as did Jim Pressley, executive director of CLGAW division services, and Abe Breehey, assistant director of government affairs.

Allen read a prepared statement from IP Newton B. Jones stating the Brotherhood’s position on the matter. The statement noted that the Dundee facility “is the only cement-making facility in the world working to apply certain emissions control technology on a wet process cement kiln. This has required investments [by Holcim] of approximately $30 million to date, and more than $10 million in modifications and upgrades planned in the coming years.”

Jones’ statement further noted: “We believe it is unfair to place the burden solely on the Dundee facility and its employees. A more equitable distribution of the costs of complying with the federal standard across all sources of emissions would help avoid the potentially devastating impact of this proposed rule on workers and their families.”

Holcim and Local D408 have generated considerable support from political and labor interests in the area. State Rep. Kathy Angerer (D-Dundee) attended the hearing and argued against the DEQ rule. State Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) also has come out against the rule.

Supporters say the Dundee plant has a good environmental record, that it provides good-paying jobs, and that it brings $86 million into the local economy each year.

The Michigan State AFL-CIO has also gotten involved, submitting a statement to the DEQ calling on the agency “to continue working with Holcim in a collaborative process instead of unilaterally imposing unreasonable rules with the sole purpose of shutting down Holcim’s Dundee plant.”

A second DEQ hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 27, this time in Dundee, where the community will have an opportunity to make its concerns known.