Target: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Goal: Close a pollution loophole that allows industrial plants to avoid air pollution controls.
For decades, many states’ air quality plans have contained a loophole that allows industrial facilities and coal plants to pollute during times of “startup, shutdown, or malfunction” (SSM) with no consequences. In a stunning example, thirty facilities in Texas are reported to have emitted “more than forty-five million pounds of toxic chemicals in just one year during these periods.” Disturbingly, toxic air pollution from these facilities can increase to as much as ten times the allowable levels during SSM events. Reports also indicate that many major polluters have avoided emissions penalties during normal operations by claiming that their violations resulted from “malfunctions.” Although accidents do occur, firms are not penalized for their emissions while the neighboring land and communities face serious risks.
Unfortunately, the SSM exemption was established in the early 1970’s when the EPA was “inundated” with proposed state implementation plans (or SIPs). SIPs outline how states will meet federal air standards. Due to the numerous plans received by the EPA, the agency admits that it passed provisions that were too “broad and loosely-defined”. In 2008, it was ruled in a federal court that the Clean Air Act does not allow for the SSM exemption. Yet, many states have not attempted to revise their provisions and remove this illegal loophole.
Due to a recent petition led by several environmental groups, the EPA has proposed safeguards that will eliminate this exemption. This being said, the agency has delayed their decision deadline multiple times. If the final ruling is issued, states will have 18 months to rewrite their provisions and seek EPA approval.
By signing the petition below, you will help urge the EPA to make its final ruling on the SSM loophole. The agency can no longer hesitate on this issue; the SSM loophole benefits industrial facilities while comprising the health and safety of the surrounding communities.
Dear Environmental Protection Agency,
For decades, a serious loophole has existed in many states’ air quality plans. This allows industrial facilities to pollute during startup, shutdown, or malfunction events. Evidence shows that toxic air pollution from these facilities can increase to as much as ten times the allowable levels during these periods. Furthermore, reports indicate that many major polluters have claimed that emissions violations during normal operations were actually the result of malfunctions. Needless to say, local communities are impacted negatively when this type of pollution occurs.
As an agency, you have proposed safeguards that will eliminate this exemption. This being said, you have delayed your decision deadline multiple times. Furthermore, when your final ruling is issued, states will have 18 months to rewrite their provisions and seek your approval. It is unsettling that immediate action is not being taken on this issue. By ruling against the SSM loophole, industrial plants that pollute during these periods will finally face consequences for their violations.
I am urging you to no longer postpone your decision on the matter of the SSM loophole. The Clear Air Act does not allow for this exemption and it has been ruled illegal in federal court. As long as the loophole exists, plants may abuse it in order to pollute without penalty. This loophole must be closed in the interest of the health and safety of land and communities throughout the country.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: barbourians via Flickr