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NRDC Launches Campaign to Force EPA to Strengthen Deficient Toxic Air Regulations
EPA Policy Subjecting Americans to Excessive Cancer Risks Upheld in Court
WASHINGTON (June 6, 2008) -- Today a federal court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal to protect American families from cancer risks posed by the chemical industry. In response, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is launching a campaign to force EPA to re-open scores of toxic air pollution regulations to correct public health and legal deficiencies identified by prior court rulings.
EPA refused to update regulations adopted in 1994, despite finding that toxic air pollution from synthetic organic chemical manufacturing plants posed such high cancer risks that 100 out of 1 million people living near these facilities could develop cancer during their lifetime.
In February 2007, NRDC and Louisiana Environmental Action Network challenged two EPA decisions that failed to require any reductions in toxic air pollution from these chemical manufacturing plants, which are some of the nation’s largest sources of cancer-causing toxic pollution.
“We are disappointed that the court sided with EPA’s refusal to protect the American people from cancer-causing toxic air pollution,” said John Walke, clean air program director for NRDC. “While the Bush EPA will celebrate this perverse victory for polluters, today’s ruling is a loss for the American people and the fight against cancer.”
While upholding the EPA’s legal maneuvering not to strengthen its outdated rule, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit nevertheless called the agency’s actions a “rather unusual bit of rulemaking.” And the court’s opinion made it clear that this harmful outcome was not compelled by law, but rather the result of a policy choice by the Bush administration to side with the interests of the chemical industry and other big polluters. The Clean Air Act provides ample authority to protect the American people from cancer-causing toxic air pollution.
The lawsuit brought by NRDC and LEAN was the first to address a 1990 Clean Air Act program that was intended to protect Americans against lifetime cancer risks posed by toxic air pollution from industrial facilities. EPA must conduct cancer risk reviews for approximately 100 categories of industrial toxic polluters. The chemical industry rules that were the subject of today’s court ruling represented only the seventh such review conducted by the agency. Future cancer risk reviews will be governed by the Bush administration policy until a new administration decides whether to continue that policy for the scores of industrial categories yet to be reviewed.
NRDC Legal Campaign to Protect Americans From Toxic Air Pollution
In response to today’s ruling upholding EPA’s hands-off approach to cancer-causing air pollution, NRDC is announcing a campaign to force EPA to revisit numerous toxic air pollution regulations to correct public health and legal deficiencies identified by prior court rulings. One such regulation is the 1994 rule governing the chemical industry that was part of the backdrop for today’s court decision.
In the coming weeks, NRDC will submit a formal legal petition to the EPA Administrator demanding that EPA conduct rulemakings to strengthen the vast majority of existing toxic air pollution regulations that suffer from common legal and health deficiencies. Following lawsuits brought by NRDC and other environmental groups, a series of court rulings from 2005-2007 found these EPA-created defects to be squarely in violation of the Clean Air Act. NRDC research has determined conclusively that scores of regulations issued by EPA since the early 1990’s suffer from these same legal deficiencies and must be revised in order to conform to the law and better protect the public.
“Since the Bush administration’s EPA has refused to protect the public from deadly air toxics, NRDC will use legal safeguards to force the agency to follow the law,” said Walke. “The courts have already sided with public health over polluters and the Bush administration in upholding these other legal safeguards, so NRDC will ensure that today’s setback does not deny the American people the protections they deserve against cancer-causing air pollution.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.