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Flaring at a refinery located next to homes in Wilmington, CA. (Jesse Marquez)
Press Release: Victory March 4, 2024

Federal Court Confirms EPA’s Authority to End Loopholes Companies Use to Pollute Air with Impunity

The exemptions prevent communities from holding air polluters accountable for toxic emissions

In the News: Texas Tribune January 26, 2024

Texas companies reported releasing 1 million pounds of excess pollution during recent cold snap

Seth Johnson, Attorney, Washington, D.C., Office: “The Clean Air Act says you need to meet emission limits at all times. There are free passes — loopholes — now. Many are being closed, and the rest that remain open need to be closed. That’s necessary in order to urge companies to take sensible precautions to avoid…

The "March For Clean Air! Stop Dumping in Newark" in Nov. 2021. (Kena Betancur for Earthjustice)
Press Release October 19, 2023

Environmental Advocates Move to Defend EPA Rule Removing Polluter Loopholes

Companies use affirmative defense to avoid the consequences of releasing unlimited amounts of toxic emissions during emergencies

Children in the danger zone in Wilmington, CA, walk near a Conoco Phillips oil refinery. (Photo provided by Jesse Marquez)
Press Release July 14, 2023

EPA Closes Loopholes Companies Use to Release Unlimited Air Pollution During Malfunctions

Air polluters use affirmative defense to avoid the consequences of releasing unlimited amounts of toxic emissions during emergencies

Press Release September 13, 2022

Dangerous Loopholes Allow Facilities to Release Toxic, Unchecked Air Pollutants

Groups petition EPA to close Clean Air Act loopholes for startup, shutdown, malfunction events

document September 13, 2022

Petition for Rulemaking, SSM (September 2022)

Earthjustice, along with a coalition of community advocacy and environmental groups, formally petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to eliminate loopholes in national Clean Air Act protections that allow facilities like oil refineries, chemical plants, and incinerators to disregard emission standards, stop reporting their pollution, and avoid fines or other consequences for excess pollution they emit during startup, shutdowns, and malfunctions (SSM). Courts have repeatedly told EPA that these exemptions are illegal — and EPA itself recognizes these exemptions are illegal.

Press Release May 6, 2022

EPA to Review Air Toxics Loopholes Covering Oil Refineries and Petrochemical Plants

Dangerous “malfunction” loopholes allow industry to emit toxic air with impunity

Press Release September 30, 2021

Earthjustice Applauds EPA’s Tightening of Chemical Air Pollution Loopholes

Communities deserve robust public health protections from ongoing, serious pollution spikes

The Valero oil refinery in Port Arthur, TX.
(Eric Kayne for Earthjustice)
Press Release June 26, 2017

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case That Could Have Opened Dangerous Clean Air Act Loophole

Power company wanted to violate pollution limits without consequence during malfunctions. By refusing to hear the case, U.S. Supreme Court ends this challenge.

An oil refinery looms over the west side of Port Arthur, TX.
(Eric Kayne for Earthjustice)
Press Release May 22, 2015

EPA Releases Rule to Close Clean Air Act Loopholes for Industrial Polluters

Good step in the right direction for the EPA's work to protect communities

Press Release April 29, 2011

Power Failures at Three Texas Refineries Spew Chemicals in the Air

Loophole allowing emissions to exceed lawful limit must be closed to protect public health and the environment

Article December 30, 2010

Celebrating Americans Who Didn't Die in 2010

According to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 160,000 American lives were saved in 2010 by the Clean Air Act’s health protections. Four decades of clean air protections have made the U.S. stronger, healthier and more prosperous.

feature December 10, 2010

Clearing the Air: Q&A with Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew

Earthjustice litigation succeeded in closing a gaping air pollution loophole known as the startup, shutdown, and malfunction exemption, which allowed industrial facilities to blanket nearby communities with toxic air pollution, all without warning or accountability.

Press Release: Victory March 8, 2010

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Air Pollution Case

Victory for clean air advocates who fought air pollution loophole

document December 19, 2008

Startup, Shutdown, Malfunction

This court decision eliminates a loophole that had allowed polluters to ignore pollution limits whenever equipment malfunctions, and whenever they start up or shut down operations.

Press Release: Victory December 19, 2008

Citizens' Groups Score Air Pollution Court Victory

Polluter loophole obliterated by federal court decision

Press Release September 12, 2008

Citizens' Groups Fight "Free Pass" for Air Polluters

Air pollution loophole in federal court today

document September 11, 2008

Opening Briefs in SSM case

Opening briefs in case challenging air pollution loophole allowing polluters to evade clean air laws during so-called 'startup, shutdown, and malfunction' periods