Landmark Victory

Clean Air Gets a Chance

Recently, the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court confirmed the power of states and localities to require more rigorous pollution monitoring from coal plants, refineries and similar industrial polluters than the Environmental Protection Agency requires. Now, citizens’ groups have successfully closed a loophole that polluters have long relied upon, at the expense of neighboring communities. In the future, companies no longer will be able to ignore pollution limits whenever equipment malfunctions or when they start up or shut down operations.

“Under this notorious EPA exemption, industrial facilities have been allowed to operate like a fleet of junk cars… spewing blue smoke, misfiring, backfiring, stalling and chugging,” says Marti Sinclair, chair of Sierra Club’s Clean Air Team.

In Texas, home to more than 250 refineries, chemical, petrochemical and other industrial sites, the most of any state, state records tracked 30 facilities emitting 45 million pounds of toxins in one year, during these off-the-books periods. Citizens of Louisiana, where some 20 million pounds of air toxins are pumped into the air each year, also stand to benefit.


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