Today's lawsuit challenges EPA's failure to review and revise its Clean Air Act regulations for municipal waste combustors. "Municipal waste combustors" is EPA's term for garbage incinerators. According to EPA there are more than 300 currently operating, and they burn about 100,000 tons of garbage each day.
"Unfortunately, much of that garbage contains metal and plastics," points out Jane Williams, chair of Sierra Club's Waste Committee. "By burning that kind of waste, garbage incinerators pump out extraordinary amounts of the worst kinds of toxic pollution."
According to EPA, municipal waste combustion accounts for more than half of all PCBs emissions, more than two-thirds of all dioxins emissions, and almost one-third of all mercury emissions. "Collectively, municipal waste combustors are the worst source of air toxics in the country," said Ms. Williams.
Because EPA completed its municipal waste combustor regulations in December 1995, the agency was required to review and revise those regulations by December 2000. EPA still has not done so.
"Congress recognized the health threat posed by incinerator emissions," said James Pew, an attorney with Earthjustice. "So it required strict standards for incinerators, and also required EPA to review and revise those standards every five years. That reflected a common sense decision to make sure that all incinerators have the best level of control that's currently possible."
"It's now clear that we can control incinerators' toxic emissions much better than the old regulations require," says Ms. Williams. "We need to begin the process of tightening controls on this serious public health threat."
Earthjustice filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
For more information, contact Suzanne Carrier of Earthjustice (202-667-4500) or Bob Palzer, Ph.D. of Sierra Club (541-482-2492).