The Bush administration has issued irresponsibly weak standards for toxic air emissions from tens of thousands of industrial boilers, environmental groups charged today in a lawsuit filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The administration’s rule, finalized in September, violates the Clean Air Act and fails to protect the public from deadly pollutants emitted by an estimated 58,000 industrial boilers across the nation. The covered boilers burn an array of wastes that can include chemically treated wood waste, used oil waste, solvents, old tires, sewage gas, paint sludge, toxic fly ash, wastewater treatment sludge, and toxics-laden paper mill sludge.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Sierra Club, and Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), represented by the non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice, have brought the suit against the Bush administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The Bush EPA is allowing thousands of facilities across the country to burn industrial waste without adequate controls,” said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew. “The waste is burned in so-called ‘boilers’ and ‘process heaters’ that emit tons of highly toxic pollution into communities, homes and schools.”
The Bush administration approved a rule that poorly addresses this serious threat. For example, EPA has approved “no control” standards — standards requiring no emission reductions at all — for benzene, a known human carcinogen, mercury, a highly toxic metal linked to birth defects and developmental damage in children, and many other toxic pollutants. The rule also offers loopholes allowing boilers to not clean up emissions of specific toxins such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and lead, all probable human carcinogens. EPA has never claimed that boilers’ emissions of these toxins are safe, or even looked into the issue.
“The Bush administration is far more interested in protecting the pocketbooks of its industry sponsors than the health of families and communities exposed to these dangerous toxins,” said Jane Williams, chair of Sierra Club’s toxics committee.