On a positive note, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down an exemption that for nearly 15 years has allowed refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities to exceed federal air pollution limits during certain periods of operation. The ruling was good news for environmental groups who hailed the ruling. The Court’s ruling overturned a provision, enacted under President Clinton, that permits industrial operations that are starting up, shutting down or malfunctioning to emit more toxins into the air than is normally allowed. The Environmental Protection Agency and big business groups argued that the exemption was essential. But, the Court determined in a ruling that affects sources of air pollution across the country, the exemption was illegal.
The EPA created the exemption in 1994, and Bush Administration officials broadened the interpretation of the provision over time. This made it subject to judicial review. A coalition of advocacy groups including the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, the Coalition for a Safe Environment and Friends of Hudson filed the lawsuit to challenge the provision’s legality. Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew, who argued the case on behalf of the coalition, stated:
What they did is take a bad provision and turn it into an almost complete barrier to enforcement. This was an attempt to make all of the air-toxics laws unenforceable, and they almost got away with it.
It has been reported that industrial facilities have routinely violated federal air standards under the guise of malfunctions. Industry representatives consistently have claimed these excesses were a necessary part of operations. This ruling was a good one and hopefully will have the desired effect of protecting the health and welfare of the American people.
Source: Washington Post
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