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Sierra Club Lawsuit Targets EPA Rule on Toxic Chemical Emissions

Published by MAC on 2005-12-12

Sierra Club Lawsuit Targets EPA Rule on Toxic Chemical Emissions

Environmental New Service (ENS)

12th December 2005

WASHINGTON, DC - The Sierra Club is going back to court to appeal a ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the group claims fails to address a previous court order won six years ago.

The group is suing to force the EPA to impose the strictest protections required by law on hundreds of hazardous waste combustors nationwide that release tons of toxic air pollution each year.

Litigation filed Thursday by Earthjustice on behalf of Sierra Club in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenges the agency's rule, which the plaintiff claims does nothing to reduce toxic chemicals like dioxins, mercury, toxic metals and organic hazardous air pollutants.

"EPA has again shown us that reducing toxic air pollution does not register within the agency as a high priority," said Earthjustice attorney James Pew, who will argue the case.

"For the millions of Americans who live near these combustors who are at a higher risk for cancer and other illnesses, reducing overall pollution releases is an unbelievably high priority," said Pew. "If EPA saw this as the threat it truly is, they certainly would have required much stronger emission reductions from these combustors."

In 1999, Earthjustice successfully challenged a previous hazardous waste combustor rule that did not comply with federal law. The EPA's subsequent proposed rule, issued October 12, again fails to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act by neglecting to address many of the most dangerous pollutants emitted by hazardous waste combustion.

The EPA has identified hazardous waste combustors as sources that "emit some of the most toxic, bioaccumulative and persistent hazardous air pollutants."

The agency estimates that there are about 145 facilities operating 265 combustors nationwide. Combustors can include hazardous waste burning cement kilns, industrial boilers, lightweight aggregate kilns, and hydrochloric acid furnaces.

"Years ago we learned how bad it was to burn our garbage in our backyards," said Marti Sinclair, chair of Sierra Club's National Air Committee. "We stopped burning, but apparently these combustors did not get the message. While they continue to burn huge amounts of hazardous waste right in our backyards, EPA again fails to require them to reduce the amount of pollution they contribute to nearby communities."

The Sierra Club aims to reduce toxic emissions from industrial polluters such as polyvinyl chloride and plywood manufacturers, cement kilns, power plants, industrial waste incinerators and mobile sources such as cars, buses and trucks.

In all of these cases, EPA's dismissal of federal law, court orders and meaningful pollution reduction have forced conservation, public health and community groups into litigation to seek stronger clean air protections, Earthjustice says.

"The rules that EPA has proposed for many different industrial facilities are continually inadequate," Pew said. "Whether it's a federal court or Congress directing EPA to draft stronger protections against air pollution, the agency just seems to continually ignore these guidelines."

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