- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to curb emissions from industrial sources and power plants during startup, shutdown and malfunction (SSM), issuing a final rule which closes a loophole environmentalists have long found objectionable.
- The EPA's decision directs 36 states to revise policies that exempt SSM events from Clean Air Act regulation, the Hill reports.
- According to the Sierra Club, which petitioned for the changes, some oil refineries and coal facilities emit more pollutants during SSM times than they do during normal operations the remainder of the year, contributing to health and environmental issues.
The Obama administration last week issued new rules which will roll back decades of exemptions given to industrial facilities for pollution emitted outside of normal operations.
"Air pollution emitted during these periods may adversely affect the health of people in neighboring and downwind communities," the agency said in a fact sheet released on the new rules.
EPA directed 36 states to submit state implementation plans (SIP) by November 2016.
Exemptions were approved many years ago and included in state plans, but regulators said "recent court decisions have held that under the CAA, such exemptions are not allowed in SIPs." Other court decisions have tackled similar exemptions in National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, and the EPA said it will address those in a separate action.
“Families who live near refineries and coal plants have waited decades for action to close these loopholes," Leslie Fields, Sierra Club’s director of environmental justice and community partnerships programs, said in a statement. "The Obama Administration and the EPA have heeded their call and delivered a strong safeguard."
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said the decision addresses economic inequality, social justice and health concerns.
“For too long, neighborhoods adjacent to dirty oil refineries, coal plants, and other sources of pollution have been left with little recourse to protect their families from toxic pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and soot," Brune said in a statement. "More often than not, the communities that face the worst of this pollution are low-income communities or communities of color."