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June 11, 2008


Appeals Court Upholds Air Toxics Rule

Decision affirms finding that current emission controls at chemical plants are adequate

Glenn Hess

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has upheld a determination made by EPA in 2006 that current air emission controls on synthetic organic chemical manufacturing plants are adequate to protect the public with an ample margin of safety.

In a decision on June 6, the court dismissed a claim by environmental groups that the agency's interpretation of the residual risk and technology review provisions of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments is too lenient and exposes the public to cancer-causing air pollution.

The 1990 law required EPA to determine whether any risk remained after the chemical industry installed controls to limit emissions of hazardous air pollutants and whether additional controls were needed.

After conducting a review largely based on emissions data supplied by chemical manufacturers, EPA concluded that the application of maximum achievable control technology since 1994 has resulted in a substantial reduction of hazardous air pollution from the nation's chemical plants.

In 2006, EPA issued a final rule that left the 1994 standard in place, saying no further tightening was necessary because emissions of hazardous air pollutants have been reduced to levels that present "an acceptable level of risk" to people who live near chemical facilities.

"We are thrilled by the unanimous decision," says American Chemistry Council President and Chief Executive Officer Jack N. Gerard. "The business of chemistry represents the gold standard in responsible product management and is committed to continual emissions improvement. ACC helped defend EPA's decision, and we are pleased that the agency's determination, based on sound science, was upheld."

Natural Resources Defense Council attorney John Walke says his group will now petition EPA to conduct a comprehensive review of its existing air pollution regulations issued under the Clean Air Act and to "strengthen the vast majority that suffer from common legal and health deficiencies."

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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