“Shame on EPA for issuing weaker standards for this community, which has been overburdened with toxic pollution for much too long.” Mike Schade, campaign coordinator with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice
A group of environmental organizations Monday filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s emissions standards for polyvinyl chloride plants in Mossville and Deer Park, Texas, both of which emit toxic pollutants at far greater concentrations than other PVC facilities, according to a member of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
Public interest law firm Earthjustice is representing Air Alliance Houston, the Sierra Club and the Louisiana groups Mossville Environmental Action Now and Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
The lawsuit was filed in the District of Columbia Circuit of the U.S. District Court of Appeals and challenges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards as laid out in “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Polyvinyl Chloride and Copolymers Production.” The lawsuit calls those standards “unlawful and arbitrary.”
Earlier this year, the EPA announced new regulations on pollution from plants producing polyvinyl chloride. The EPA’s new rules expand the number of pollutants facilities need to control and reduce how much can be released.
The environmental groups, in a news release, accuse the EPA of deciding without warning to create special categories for the Mossville and Deer Park facilities, “even though the agency recognized that the pollution is similar to and could use the same types of pollution control technologies that are generally available and in use by other PVC facilities.”
Regulation standards are measured by the volume processed versus the amount of emissions produced during production, Wilma Subra, who provides technical assistance to LEAN, said Monday.
The lawsuit challenges the EPA’s decision not to have the Mossville and Deer Park plants follow the new standards.
Subra said the issue involves the EPA’s decision to remove proposed standards that would have tightened emission standards at the plants in Calcasieu Parish and Harris County, Texas. “We thought that was totally inappropriate,” Subra said.
The EPA’s proposed rule was in response to earlier petitions the environmental groups had filed, Subra said. “We’re asking for a reconsideration as part of this filing,” she said.
The groups also have filed a petition asking EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to reconsider her decision voluntarily, according to a news release from LEAN.
The EPA, in an email to The Advocate on Monday, said the agency will review the lawsuit and respond accordingly.
Mossville has four vinyl production facilities, including two major vinyl chloride manufacturers.
“After years of work to obtain the stronger air protection we need in Mossville, La., it was a shock to our community when EPA suddenly changed course and singled us out for weaker standards as compared to the rest of the nation,” Dorothy Felix of the Mossville group said in a news release.
“EPA should stay true to its commitment to environmental justice and correct this unfairness by setting stronger air pollution limits that will protect our health as we and all Americans deserve,” the news release says.
The EPA’s decision forces Felix and others in the Mossville community, which is near Lake Charles, to “restart a decadelong effort to get these basic limits on toxic air pollution,” according to the release.
Mike Schade, campaign coordinator with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, said in the news release that the community is surrounded by more vinyl manufacturers than anywhere else in the country.
“This community should receive the greatest, not the weakest, protection,” Schade said in the release. “Shame on EPA for issuing weaker standards for this community, which has been overburdened with toxic pollution for much too long.”
The release cites statistics from the EPA that show that the 17 plants in the United States that manufacture PVC resin emit more than 1,400 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year. The emissions include more than 270 tons per year of vinyl chloride, which is a known human carcinogen, the release says.
The groups said in the news release that the EPA’s emission standards for the plants in Mossville and Deer Park are especially weak.
The news release also says the EPA did not address the need for stronger public health protection in its decision.
Editor’s note: This story was modified on June 19, 2012, to reflect that the EPA response came from the agency, not from a particular spokesperson for the agency.