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Suit Filed to Require EPA to Protect Families from Airborne Toxics

Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of the Sierra Club against EPA challenging the agency's new national air rule for incinerators and cement kilns that burn hazardous waste.
November 30, 1999
WASHINGTON, DC —

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of the Sierra Club against EPA today challenging the agency's new national air rule for incinerators and cement kilns that burn hazardous waste ("hazardous waste combustors"). "Hazardous waste" is waste that is too dangerous to dispose of by normal methods, and it is subject to "cradle-to-grave" handling and disposal requirements under federal environmental laws. Although the new rule purports to implement these requirements, it is grossly inadequate.

Summing up Sierra Club's deep concerns about the rule, Dr. Neil Carman, clean air program director of Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter in Texas, stated "Toxic waste incinerators foul our air, land and food. These incinerators make it tougher for kids with asthma to breathe, fill our lungs with toxic chemicals, and poison the food we eat. Sierra Club's lawsuit will prod the government to wake up and force waste incinerators to stop poisoning our lungs."

"Emissions from these plants include dioxins, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)," pointed out Jane Williams, Chairman of Sierra Club's national committee on waste. "These pollutants are among the most toxic in existence, and they don't just go away when facilities pump them into the air. Dioxins, mercury and PCBs emissions settle on our waters, on our crops and on our gardens; they persist in the environment, and they bioaccumulate in our food. Thanks to emissions from facilities like these, many women and children in America already are facing serious health risks."

Over 200 hazardous waste incinerators operate in the U.S., and EPA's standards for these plants are far weaker than the law requires. In addition, the new rule does not require the operators of hazardous waste incinerators to gather accurate information about their emissions, or to report such information to the public. "By allowing excessive limits for mercury emissions, EPA's rule for reducing pollution from toxic waste incinerators is a slap in the face of the Clinton Administration's Mercury Action Plan," Carman said. "The EPA has failed to live up to President Clinton's promises to make our air cleaner and safer to breath. In writing this rule the government has been looking the other way again, letting the toxic waste industry pollute at outrageous levels and then self-monitor their incinerators for violations."

"I don't think that the toxic incineration industry should have a right to poison our air and sacrifice our community," said Sue Pope, a resident of Midlothian, Texas, which is home to the Texas Industries waste burning cement kilns. "Our air has been polluted, our quality of life worsened, our properties devalued and our health compromised. We are not expendable, and the EPA needs to curtail these toxic emissions."

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Contacts

Neil Carman, Lone Star Sierra Club, 512-472-1767

Jim Pew, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, 202-667-4500

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.