EDF, Allies: EPA Must Close “Air Toxics Loophole”

Comments forcefully oppose rollback of protections against dangerous industrial air pollution

September 26, 2019
Sharyn Stein, (202) 572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(WASHINGTON, DC – September 26, 2019) This week, Environmental Defense Fund joined 34 public health, environmental justice, labor, and environmental organizations in filing comments opposing a proposed EPA rule that could allow thousands of major industrial sources of hazardous air pollution to exempt themselves from Clean Air Act standards.

EPA’s proposed rule would formally adopt an “air toxics loophole” under section 112 of the Clean Air Act, which requires the agency to establish rigorous emission standards for 187 dangerous pollutants such as benzene and mercury. Under the proposed rule, large industrial facilities across the country would be eligible to operate with weaker, or no, air pollution controls.

“The EPA must immediately withdraw this unlawful and harmful proposal to allow major polluters to circumvent common sense standards that protect our clean air,” said Tomás Carbonell, Director of Regulatory Policy and Lead Attorney at EDF.

“According to EPA’s own analysis, this proposed rule could allow nearly 4,000 industrial facilities nationwide to exempt themselves from rigorous clean air standards – adding an additional 2.4 million pounds per year of hazardous pollution to the air we breathe. Much of this pollution will disproportionately affect low-income and minority Americans.”

An EDF report found as many as 26 major facilities in the Houston area alone that are potentially eligible to use the loophole, and that those facilities could increase their emissions of toxic air pollution by as much as 152 percent.

The comments also demand that EPA withdraw a January 2018 memorandum by former Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum, under which the agency began implementing the “air toxics loophole” without issuing a formal proposal or taking public comment. EDF, nine other public health and environmental NGOs, and the state of California filed legal challenges to that memorandum last year. Those challenges were recently dismissed by a federal appeals court on procedural grounds.

In addition to this letter, EDF joined four other public health and environmental organizations in filing detailed legal and technical comments opposing the proposed rule.

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