Home Donate Online About Us Contact Us Articles Press Room

Downwinders At Risk-Articles

 Downwinders At Risk - Articles: August 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

TXI to idle 4 of its cement kilns in Midlothian

10:38 PM CDT on Friday, August 8, 2008

By BRENDAN M. CASE / The Dallas Morning News
bcase@dallasnews.com / The Dallas Morning News
Randy Lee Loftis contributed to this report

Dallas-based Texas Industries Inc. will idle some cement production at its Midlothian plant as demand slows because of the economic downturn, a company spokesman said Friday.

Four of the company's wet kilns will be shut down. However, the company will continue to operate its larger, more environmentally friendly dry kiln, said Randy Jones, vice president of corporate communications and government affairs.

"Certainly, residential demand has fallen off, and that precipitates other things to slow down," Mr. Jones said. "It's an inventory management action."

Vicki Bryan, a bond analyst in Houston with Gimme Credit LLC, said the move was unexpected.

"They're definitely hunkering down," she said.

The company did not have an estimate Friday on how many of its 270 Midlothian employees will be affected, Mr. Jones said.

It will take 60 to 70 days to idle the four kilns. After that, employees with continuous service of six months or more will be furloughed and can be brought back if necessary, Mr. Jones said. Employees with less than six months of service will be laid off.

From March to May, TXI's cement shipments fell 3 percent compared with the same period last year, according to the company's most recent financial statements.

TXI stock rose $2.49 to close at $50.32 Friday, the day after a larger-than-expected bond offering by the company. Shares are down about 28 percent since the start of the year.

The kiln idling may be good news for local air quality since fuel for the four includes hazardous waste. Already, the state permit for the newer dry kiln, which burns coal and natural gas, requires TXI to idle two of the four older kilns at any given time to limit emissions.

TXI began burning hazardous waste in 1987, a year after another local plant – now owned by Ash Grove Cement Co. of Overland Park, Kan. – began using waste as fuel. TXI is now the only local cement company burning hazardous waste.

"For the first time since 1986, no plant in Ellis County will be burning hazardous waste," said Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk, a Midlothian clean-air watchdog group. "This is a big deal."

Staff writer Randy Lee Loftis contributed to this report

TXI to idle four Midlothian cement kilns

Saturday, Aug 9, 2008
Posted on Sat, Aug. 09, 2008

TXI, the largest cement producer in Texas, will idle its four biggest-polluting kilns in Midlothian, the company announced Friday.
The company will temporarily shut down the plants that use a "wet" production process. Environmentalists say those plants release far more nitrogen oxides into the air than less-polluting dry kilns.

TXI will continue to maintain its dry kiln in Midlothian, company spokesman Randy Jones said.

The kilns will take about 65 days to shut down, Jones said.

After that, some employees will be laid off while others will be furloughed and possibly recalled later, he said.

Though environmentalists were quick to applaud the company’s move, Jones stressed that the decision wasn’t made because of pollution concerns. Rather, it was largely because of a sluggish economy.

"It’s not a secret to anybody that certainly residential construction has slowed down in Texas as well as throughout the United States and that has some impact on other markets like commercial," Jones said.

The dry kiln was selected to remain in operation because it produces more cement than any of the other kilns, Jones said.

Over the past year, several cities including Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas have passed resolutions calling for the purchase of only "green" cement from less-polluting plants.

Jim Schermbeck with Downwinders at Risk credited the cities’ resolutions with forcing TXI to shut its plants.

"They saw the future coming with more and more of these resolutions coming out from all these cities," Schermbeck said.

Jones wouldn’t speculate when asked whether the decision to stop production at its four wet kilns may turn out to be a permanent break from that production method.

"We’re idling these kilns on a temporary basis and will not make a decision based on what the environmental groups are saying," Jones said.

Schermbeck said groups like his will continue to pressure TXI to permanently shut down the kilns or retrofit them so they produce less pollution, though he doubted that would be necessary.

"I would be very surprised if these wet kilns ever came online again given the economic disadvantage," Schermbeck said. "This is more or less their swan song, but of course TXI is loath to admit that right now."

Tom "Smitty" Smith of the Texas chapter of Public Citizen in Austin said TXI may have been reacting to anticipated action from state officials to achieve federal emissions requirements for the Metroplex that are required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"You can’t squeeze any more clean air out of the system without going after the kilns," Smith said.

Regardless of TXI’s reasoning, Smith said, he hopes that the plants stayed closed for good.

"It is our hope that they will say we’ve made enough profit out of their kilns and it’s time to retire them," Smith said. "Everyone in the Dallas-Fort Worth area would breathe better if they would."

It’s not a secret to anybody that certainly residential construction has slowed down in Texas as well as throughout the United States and that has some impact on other markets like commercial."

TXI spokesman Randy Jones

This is more or less their [the kilns’] swan song."


Jim Schermbeck
Downwinders at Risk