Conservation Groups Call for Stronger Protections Against Waste Incineration

Litigation challenges EPA rule that does little to protect against mercury, PCBs and more


Marylee Orr, Louisiana Environmental Action Network (225) 928-1315, x11


James Pew, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500

The Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Sierra Club filed a lawsuit today in federal court that challenges the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to approve a rule that exempts tens of thousands of waste incinerators across the country from strong pollution protections.

The groups, represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit today in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Case No. 05-1434) that challenges EPA’s decision to regulate waste incinerators as boilers, rather than incinerators. Commercial industrial waste incinerators are often used in a variety of manufacturing processes, burning waste such as used tires, treated wood, waste oils, biomass and garbage. Emissions from waste incinerators can include mercury, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and lead.

In September, EPA approved a rule that redefined many of these incinerators as boilers, saying that because they recapture heat they should be exempt from the stronger pollution reduction requirements under federal law.

“Louisianans are exposed to too much dirty air and polluted water. We want EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act,” said Marylee Orr, Executive Director for Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). “The agency needs to protect our health with regulations that adhere to the law. These incinerators can be found in nearly every town and city across the country, making them a huge source of toxic pollution. We all the deserve the protections that congress intended under the Clean Air Act and EPA should do its job to enforce these standards.”

Conservation groups are calling upon EPA to reconsider its decision to exempt waste incinerators from the strong pollution reduction requirements of the Clean Air Act. While many of these individual incinerators emit pollutants in minute quantities, the cumulative impact of tens of thousands of incinerators is quite severe.

“We all learned many years ago that burning our trash in the backyard was not a good idea,” Orr said. “But with this rule, EPA says it’s okay for these incinerators to continue burning trash and polluting the air. It’s time the agency looks towards protecting our health and the environment with regulations that remind industries that it’s not okay to burn their trash in our backyards.”

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