NRDC Files Suit Challenging EPA Approval of Higher Use, Production of Dangerous Ozone-Depleting Chemical

Washington (December 23, 2004) -- Today, in response to a new EPA rule that would allow increased production and use of a cancer-causing, ozone-depleting chemical, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is filing suit against the new rule. The rule violates both the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol, the world's most successful environmental treaty.

"The Bush administration has given a holiday bonus to a handful of chemical companies and agribusinesses," said David Doniger, Policy Director for NRDC's Climate Center. "More methyl bromide means more ozone depletion and higher risks of skin cancer, cataracts, and other illnesses. More methyl bromide also means higher risks of prostate cancer for pesticide applicators."

The lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court. NRDC will also send a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt today, asking that he "stay" key provisions pending review by the court.

The rule in question was signed last week by the outgoing EPA Administrator, and would allow a 2 million pound increase in 2005 in the use of methyl bromide, compared to 2003. It also allows chemical companies to produce or import 17 million pounds of methyl bromide even though they already have more than 22 million pounds stockpiled in railroad cars and tanks around the country. This new action followed several other decisions by the Bush administration to allow more use of the pesticide.

After a 12 year phase-out process under the treaty, known as the Montreal Protocol, methyl bromide production and use is supposed to end at the close of this year, with very highly restricted exemptions available only for "critical uses." But under the new EPA regulations, methyl bromide use will actually increase in 2005.

The Montreal Protocol, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and supported by subsequent U.S. presidents from both political parties, is intended to protect the ozone layer, which shields us from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation that increases risks of skin cancer, cataracts and immunological disease. Methyl bromide also causes prostate cancer in agricultural workers and others who are directly exposed, according to the National Cancer Institute.