EPA Sued Over Failure to Review Emission Standards

Nine plaintiffs filed suit against defendant Michael S. Regan (in his official capacity as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA) on Tuesday in District of Columbia District Court. The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief alleges that the defendant is in ongoing violation of the Clean Air Act since the EPA has yet to review and revise outdated emission standards.

The plaintiffs include California Communities Against Toxics, Clean Air Council, the Sierra Club, and other regional organizations.

The complaint is intended to compel the defendant to abide by the Clean Air Act, which requires that the EPA “limit emissions of toxic, cancer-causing chemicals by promulgating national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants” and review and revise these standards at least every eight years.

The plaintiffs recounted that in 2012, the EPA finalized the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), meaning that a review and revision was due in 2020. The plaintiffs explain that no review or revision has been conducted and that the EPA is in ongoing violation of the Clean Air Act.

The complaint focuses specifically on the chemical manufacturing industry, which it notes is a significant source of air pollution. By failing to regulate this industry through the NESHAP, chemical manufacturing facilities are able to “operate without requirements ensuring the use of current pollution control technology” and emit excessive hazardous air pollution.

The complaint claims that many chemical manufacturing facilities emit significant amounts of a human carcinogen, ethylene oxide, that puts those who breathe it in at an increased risk of cancer. The outdated NESHAP does not currently regulate ethylene oxide. Although the EPA Office of Inspector General sent a recommendation to the EPA to develop a NESHAP for facilities that emit ethylene oxide in 2021, the EPA has yet to take action. The plaintiffs assert that the EPA’s inaction is harming them and their members.

The complaint cites a violation of the Clean Air Act. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction requiring that the EPA immediately review and revise the national emission standards for chemical manufacturing area sources, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed just by the court.

The plaintiffs are represented by EarthJustice.