EPA Shutting Down Last-standing U.S. Primary Lead Smelter

By:  William F. Jasper
EPA Shutting Down Last-standing U.S. Primary Lead Smelter

The last standing primary lead smelter in the United States will be closing in December — thanks to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s continuing war on American industry. As a consequence, the costs of batteries, ammunition, and hundreds of other lead-dependent products will climb.

While environmental militants may cheer the demise of the Doe Run Company smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri, as an ecological “victory,” the plant’s closure will have little-to-no positive environmental impact, while causing significant economic harm. The potential implications for individual liberty and national security could prove to be even more significant. Meanwhile, Congress continues to permit the EPA to wreak havoc on the American economy, with draconian regulations that have no basis in science and are causing incalculable harm. EPA regulations, for example, are closing hundreds of coal-fired electrical plants and are now targeting natural gas, which has been one of the few bright spots in our national economy, producing (together with unconventional oil production) 1.7 million jobs.

Once Doe Run’s Herculaneum smelter closes there will be no facility left in the United States to process lead ore. A dozen or so secondary smelters will remain to process recycled batteries and other products containing lead, but there is no reason to believe that the EPA’s ever-tightening noose will not eventually order them closed as well. The Herculaneum smelter, which has operated in the same location since 1892, began its shutdown in 2010, after the company concluded an agreement with the EPA.

Tammy Stankey, a public affairs spokesperson at the Doe Run Company, told The New American that the Herculanaum smelter, which once employed over 300, will continue to employ around 75 workers for some time in non-lead-smelting jobs. 

Global Lead Demand Expected to Continue to Rise

While the EPA is closing the last U.S. lead smelting plant, the International Lead Association (ILA), reported in London on October 22 that the global demand for the base metal is expected to continue rising. The ILA reported

According to the International Lead Zinc Study Group (ILZSG), global demand for lead is expected to increase 5 percent in 2013 and an additional 4.6 percent in 2014. Demand for lead in the U.S. is expected to increase by 7.6 percent in 2013, bolstered by both original equipment purchases of new vehicles and replacement purchases of lead-acid batteries. 

Almost 90 percent of lead production in the United States is consumed in making storage batteries.

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Photo: Doe Run Company smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri.

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