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New Air Regulations Signal Positive Changes at EPA

Victory: Emissions standards for medical waste incinerators will reduce pollution, a welcome shift
December 1, 2008
Washington, DC —

In a move that signals a positive shift from the current administration's environmental policies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed protective new air pollution standards for medical waste incinerators.

The proposed standards, published today in the Federal Register, will result in pollution reductions from facilities which have historically been among the country's worst emitters of mercury and dioxins.

Today's proposal is the result of a decade-long pursuit for stronger protections. In 1997, Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew represented Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council in a successful legal challenge to EPA's weak air pollution standards for medical waste incinerators. Under the Bush administration, the agency delayed for years, until a second successful Earthjustice lawsuit forced them to revamp the standards.

"It's heartening to see, at long last, the Clean Air Act being used in the way it was intended: to limit air pollution and protect us from harmful toxins," Pew said. "We hope this is a sign of good things to come."

In recent years, incineration of medical waste has shifted away from individual hospital facilities and toward large commercial incinerators. The industry's concentration means pollution reductions at these large incinerators will be significant -- and especially meaningful to nearby communities.

Read the proposed regulations 


Jim Pew/Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.