Public pressure is mounting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen toxic air pollution standards at polyvinyl chloride (PVC) chemical plants, especially for two that were singled out for weak standards in a new set of rules that the agency released addressing emissions from nationwide facilities.
The newest action comes from over a dozen faith-based and socially responsible investors in a letter sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today.
Nearly twenty investors, with more than $9.8 billion assets under management, including some who own shares in PVC plants, are calling on the EPA to reconsider the rule. In a letter submitted to EPA today, they write:
“Setting PVC industry emission standards that are weaker than EPA’s initial proposed standards is counterproductive to efforts begun by investors, community groups, and local regulatory officials to reduce the toxic burden in environmental justice communities.”
The latest letter builds on the concerns raised in a July letter signed by 60 national and local environmental health and justice groups and submitted to the EPA. The investor letter also attempts to reinforce the concerns that Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN) presented at the July meeting of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), a federal advisory committee to EPA. All of these efforts reinforce the petition Earthjustice filed in June on behalf of MEAN, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Air Alliance Houston, and Sierra Club in June asking EPA to grant reconsideration and issue a new, stronger air toxics rule without delay.
“As long term investors of diversified portfolios we believe strong and consistent protections of public health and welfare are essential to long term economic growth, and in turn the prospects of companies in our portfolios,” said Susan Baker of Trillium Asset Management. “Communities in Mossville and Deer Park have the right to breathe clean air.”
According to the EPA, there are 17 plants in the United States that manufacture PVC resin, and they emit more than 1400 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year. These emissions include more than 270 tons per year of vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen. They also include benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and dioxins, all of which also are known human carcinogens, as well as probable human carcinogens such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. Dioxins are widely considered some of the most toxic chemicals on the planet, targeted for phase-out by 170 nations around the world.
The EPA’s emission standards for the plants in Mossville and Deer Park are especially weak, allowing these plants to emit toxic pollutants at far greater concentrations than other PVC facilities.
While initially proposing to grant these communities at least the same protection as those elsewhere in the U.S., the EPA then decided without warning or any opportunity for public comment to create special categories for these two sources, even though the agency recognized that the plants are similar to and could use the same types of pollution control technologies that are generally available and in use by other PVC facilities.
“We have been shouldering the burden of breathing this poisoned air for much too long, leaving us with unparalleled levels of disease and illness,” said Dorothy Felix of Mossville Environmental Action Now. “Advocates for clean air from all sectors will continue to call on EPA to strengthen these standards because it is clear that our communities were unfairly singled out.”
“Exposing communities to chemicals that cause sickness and cancer is not the way to keep our economy strong,” said Sister Judy Byron of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment. “These facilities have more than enough money to install protections that would limit the amount of poison people breathe.”
“Our community is continually exposed to cancer-causing pollution from the local PVC plant which spews its chemicals into our neighborhoods, schools and churches,” said Matthew Tejada of Air Alliance Houston. “For an agency committed to environmental justice to set weaker standards for PVC plants in communities that need protection the most is simply unacceptable.”