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Sierra Club Celebrates Environmental Justice Victory with Closure of Major Polluter Loopholes

EPA closes Startup, Shutdown, Malfunction loopholes that allowed industrial facilities to emit massive amounts of air pollution in low income communities and communities of color

WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the closure of major Clean Air Act loopholes that allowed industrial polluters in 36 states to release massive amounts of dangerous air pollution into nearby communities during their startups, shutdowns, and malfunctions (SSM).

For decades, the SSM loopholes have been decried by public health and environmental justice organizations as an irresponsible and dangerous giveaway to polluters that threatens the health of vulnerable communities, which are frequently low income and communities of color. Some facilities, such as coal plants and oil refineries, have been known to release more pollution during SSM episodes than they emitted during normal operations throughout the entire year, presenting major health risks to local people with asthma, children, and seniors that unsuspectingly venture outside for daily activities.

The EPA will close these loopholes by requiring 36 states to revise provisions in their policies that exempt SSM events from Clean Air Act protections and allow polluters to avoid responsibility for repeated violations. The agency's decision reflects years of hard work from citizen and environmental groups and legal advocates across the country, who have been fighting to protect affected communities and urging EPA to redress these widespread problems.

In response, Michael Brune, Sierra Club’s Executive Director, issued the following statement:

“Today, we applaud the Obama Administration for securing a significant victory for environmental justice by acting to better protect families from dangerous air pollution.

“For too long, neighborhoods adjacent to dirty oil refineries, coal plants, and other sources of pollution have been left with little recourse to protect their families from toxic pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and soot.  More often than not, the communities that face the worst of this pollution are low-income communities or communities of color.

“Thanks to the administration’s action today, and the hard work of countless advocates for public health and environmental justice, our families and kids will be able to breathe easier.”


Leslie Fields, Sierra Club’s Director of Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Programs, also issued the following statement:

“Families who live near refineries and coal plants have waited decades for action to close these loopholes. The Obama Administration and the EPA have heeded their call and delivered a strong safeguard. Today, we are proud to celebrate all of those who have done the hard work to organize their communities to stand up and fight for fair, equitable access to clean air and water for all communities, everywhere.”


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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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