The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jason Pitt, Sierra Club (202) 675-6272

Sierra Club Wants Answers from EPA on Toxic Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

Coalition Threatens Legal Action


Today, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups issued a letter threatening legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if the agency does not acknowledge their repeated requests to categorize hydrogen sulfide on the list of toxic chemicals termed Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS).

A highly toxic and currently unchecked pollutant, tens of thousands of tons of hydrogen sulfide are spewed into the air by the oil and gas industry, factory farms, and other polluters each year, but the EPA has failed to formally designate it a "hazardous air pollutant" under the Clean Air Act, effectively exempting this toxic gas from public health protections.

"With more than 57,000 tons of toxic hydrogen sulfide released into our air every year, the EPA needs to understand this is a serious issue with serious consequences, said Dr. Neil Carman, Director of the Clean Air Program for Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter and former Texas State Environmental Official.

"Hydrogen sulfide, often called 'poison gas' is a toxic, flammable gas that makes entire towns smell of rotten eggs, and kills in just moments at low concentrations. Those living near oil refineries, oil and gas fields, and factory farms' huge sewage lagoons risk long-term exposure causing permanent nervous and respiratory system damage and in some cases, death. The longer the EPA fails to address this toxic pollutant, the more Americans will have to pay - at the cost of their health and in some cases, their lives."

"Communities like Port Arthur, Baytown, TX and others depend heavily on the EPA for protection from big polluters," said Hilton Kelly, founder of the Community In-powerment Development Association and winner of the 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize for North America. "We urge the EPA to strengthen the laws and regulations that govern the refineries and chemical plants and support community health. Too many lives have been destroyed due to toxic fumes in our environment."

"Unregulated hydrogen sulfide emissions from refineries and factory farm manure pits are notorious for degrading the health and quality of life in the communities they operate near," said Sparsh Khandeshi of the Environmental Integrity Project. "While Texas has recognized this problem and begun to regulate hydrogen sulfide, this is a nationwide problem that EPA must address with a strong national standard."

Currently, the EPA does not require comprehensive reporting or disclosure of toxic gas leaks in communities across the nation. Although hydrogen sulfide sources are supposed to report their emissions to EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), the agency has allowed these polluters to avoid reporting their pollution for nearly two decades. The Sierra Club and its allies are calling for this special treatment to stop and are threatening to file federal suit if actions are not taken by the EPA to protect Americans from toxic hydrogen sulfide.

To secure comprehensive protection from this toxic pollution, the Sierra Club and 25 local and national organizations petitioned EPA in 1999 and 2009 to declare hydrogen sulfide a hazardous air pollutant. The agency never responded.

Read the petition: Here

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