Many chrome platers release cancer-causing pollutants near homes, schools and day care centers, which means that the most vulnerable residents, including children, withstand the worst of this toxic exposure. In September 2012, EPA issued a final rule that failed to require all facilities to at least match the level of pollution control achieved by industry leaders in California. Instead of setting strong standards that would protect public health nationwide, the EPA set national standards that are weaker than what the Clean Air Act requires, and leave significant threats to communities living near chrome platers.
On behalf of local and national environmental groups Clean Air Council, California Communities Against Toxics and Sierra Club, Earthjustice challenged the EPA’s weak emission standards for chromium electroplating plants, facilities that emit dangerous amounts of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium. Earthjustice also represents these three groups and Chicago-based Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization as intervenors, defending certain positive updates in EPA’s standards from an industry challenge. Representative Henry Waxman; state and local regulators including the California Air Resources Board, State of New York, and South Coast Air Quality Management District; and American Lung Association, Air Alliance Houston, Environmental Integrity Project, and other community groups have filed amicus briefs in support of Earthjustice’s case.
Following an Earthjustice lawsuit, the EPA performed the long-overdue rulemaking to update the air toxics standards for chrome platers, which led to the current action now being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. As a result of this rulemaking, EPA’s standards did make some improvements, such as requiring some reductions of hexavalent chromium emissions and phasing out the dangerous use of perfluorooctane sulfonate (or “PFOS”) based fume suppressants, and Earthjustice is helping to defend those new safeguards against an industry attack.