The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jim Pew, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 214
Jane Williams, Sierra Club Air Toxics Taskforce, (661) 510-3412
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113, ext. 102
John Walke, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 289-2406
Eric Schaeffer, Environmental Integrity Project, (202) 296-8800

Clean Air Advocates Urge U.S. EPA to Protect All Communities from Toxic Emissions

Rules proposed in April are strong but loopholes could leave many communities exposed


Clean air and environmental justice advocates are
participating in public hearings in Los Angeles and Houston tomorrow to
support cleaning up toxic air emissions from industrial incinerators,
boilers and process heaters. This is one of the most significant rules
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed. It will affect
thousands of pollution sources and people in thousands of communities.

When they are finalized, EPA's proposed rules
will reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants and the risk of
serious health effects like cancer, reproductive disorders, and birth
defects in communities across the country. However, the rules also
contain a dangerous loophole that would allow many industrial
facilities to avoid controlling, monitoring, or reporting their toxic
emissions and would prevent citizens from learning either the identity
or quantity of the toxic chemicals to which they are exposed.

"All communities across the country deserve protections against
toxic pollution," said Earthjustice attorney James Pew. "EPA
Administrator Lisa Jackson has shown great leadership in restoring EPA
as a protector of public health and the environment. We're calling on
her to resist pressure from the polluter lobby and give all Americans
the protection from toxic pollution that our environmental laws were
enacted to guarantee."

The rules will require significant pollution reductions at an
estimated 14,000 boilers at 1,600 facilities, and are expected to
prevent between 2,000 and 5,000 premature deaths every year, 1,300
chronic bronchitis cases, 3,200 hospital emergency room visits, 33,000
cases of aggravated asthma and 70,000 missed days of work. The rules
will cut hundreds of tons of toxic metals emitted by industrial boilers
and process heaters including emissions of lead, arsenic, and chromium,
all of which are associated with cancer and other serious adverse
health effects. They will also reduce nationwide emissions of
mercury -- an extremely potent neurotoxin that can cause developmental
defects in unborn babies and young children -- by 8 tons per year,
approximately 75 percent.

"Communities continually bearing the brunt of these emissions are
tired of breathing dirty air," said Jane Williams, chair of the Sierra
Club's Air Toxics Taskforce. "We urge EPA to pass strong rules that
will require limits to the dangerous air people have to breathe."

Currently there are more than a dozen college campuses that have
campus boilers spewing pollution. The rules will require colleges and
universities to install newer pollution controls on aging plants.

"We urge the EPA to fully protect all communities from toxic
pollution, including the many college campuses that will be impacted by
this rule," said Kim Teplitzky who leads the Sierra Club's Campuses
Beyond Coal Campaign. "Our colleges and universities should be places
where young people can learn, thrive and innovate for the next
generation of clean energy sources, not home to aging coal plants
producing dangerous air pollution."

EPA also proposed a related rule to define non-hazardous solid
waste. Industry groups have long pushed for a narrow definition rule
that would allow facilities that burn spent chemicals and solvents,
scrap tires, scrap plastics, industrial sludges, and used oil as fuel
in their boilers and process heaters to avoid controlling, monitoring,
and reporting their toxic pollution. On this issue, EPA largely bowed
to industry pressure. Although it is likely that thousands of such
facilities are currently operating, EPA has made no effort to identify
them and claims -- incredibly -- that it does not "believe" they exist.

"EPA should not finalize piecemeal rules that protect some and leave
others vulnerable," said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental
Integrity Project. "Everyone deserves to breathe clean air."

"Strong rules that protect all communities would be a testament to
Lisa Jackson's commitment to environmental justice," said John Walke,
Clean Air Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We
encourage her to do the right thing."

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.