A broad coalition of conservation and public health groups and environmental justice organizations, along with over 8,400 citizen activists from across the country, today sent letters to the Environmental Protection Agency calling upon Administrator Stephen Johnson to propose rules that will significantly reduce toxic air pollution from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) facilities.
"We've lived near these plants and have seen how harmful they can be to our environment and our health," said Edgar Mouton, President of Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN), a Louisiana-based environmental justice group. "This is a chance for EPA to involve all of us who are forced to breathe this dirty air, and draft a rule that really does something to protect our health."
The letter signed by health, environmental justice and conservation groups calls upon EPA to propose a rule that reduces toxic chemicals from PVC facilities. Also, as of today, 8,475 citizens sent emails to Administrator Johnson, calling for stronger protections against toxic chemical releases from PVC manufacturing and hold meetings in communities where PVC plants are located.
EPA's previous rule -- vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in April 2005 -- did not require any reduction at all in PVC plants' toxic emissions. Instead it allowed PVC plants to continue to rely upon 1970's-era control technologies to control pollution. EPA acknowledged that, with only these controls, emissions from PVC plants "may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious, irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness." While EPA does not record total emissions of the 27 PVC plants nationwide, state permits show individual facilities are emitting as much as between seven and thirty tons of vinyl chloride each year, as well as vast quantities of other hazardous air pollutants.
"As a physician practicing occupational and environmental medicine, I provide health consultations to people who are exposed to the type of toxic pollution released by PVC facilities. The potential for damage to the health of people and the environment from the chemicals used in PVC production is profound," said Professor Peter Orris, Chief Scientist of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago. "EPA should pay particular attention to protecting communities in the vicinity of PVC production plants from the serious health effects of this activity."
The groups also called upon EPA to include affected communities in discussions preceding the new emission standards. "Before issuing its decision to leave the inadequate 1970's-era emission standards unchanged, EPA met repeatedly with vinyl industry representatives," the letter states. "EPA met by telephone with representatives of the Vinyl Institute on January 14, 1999, and met in person with representatives of the Vinyl Institute on March 4, 1999, which was followed by yet another meeting in person on March 21, 2000. After issuing its proposed decision, but before issuing its final decision, EPA met again with representatives of the Vinyl Institute on November 7, 2001. But EPA did not meet once with representatives of the communities affected by PVC plant emissions."
"Vinyl chloride is only one of the many toxic pollutants emitted by PVC plants," said Monique Harden, an attorney with Advocates for Environmental Human Rights. "A federal judge and the people living near these PVC plants agreed that EPA did a poor job of regulating these toxic emissions. It's time EPA lived up to its name and started protecting us."
A June 2004 court decision in a case brought by Sierra Club and MEAN, represented by Earthjustice, vacated EPA's previous rule. That rule offered no protection against the bouquet of toxic chemicals emitted in PVC production. EPA asked their previous rule be returned for revision or further explanation. Instead, in April 2005, the court affirmed its decision to throw out the rule entirely. The court's decision requires EPA to write a new PVC rule from scratch.
"It's not that often that anyone gets a second chance to correct a mistake," said Marti Sinclair, National Air Toxics Chairperson for the Sierra Club. "We all hope EPA does the right thing and proposes a rule that considers the harmful effects of these facilities and does something about it."
Groups signing on to the letter include: MEAN (LA); Sierra Club; Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (LA); Center for Constitutional Rights (NY); Greenpeace; Justice Resource Center (KY); Healthy Building Network (DC); Center for Health, Environment and Justice (NY); Center for Environmental Justice (GA); Calhoun County Resource Watch (TX); West County Toxic Coalition (CA); People for Community Recovery (IL); REACT (KY): Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (MI); Global Community Monitor (CA).
There are six PVC plants in Louisiana; one plant each in Mississippi, California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania; five plants in Texas; four plants in New Jersey; three plants in Delaware; two plants in Illinois; and two plants in Kentucky. Click here to view a list of PVC plant locations.
To speak with local activists in Louisiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, and California, contact Jared Saylor at Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, x235. Please click here to view the letter sent today to EPA Adminsitrator Stephen Johnson