Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club Sue EPA for Failing to Properly Regulate...

Thu Feb 5, 2009 1:44pm EST

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Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club Sue EPA for Failing to
Properly Regulate Air Pollution From Nitric Acid Plants

Case Could Prompt EPA to Start Regulating Greenhouse Gases

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a case that could prompt the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin regulating greenhouse gas
emissions, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and the Sierra Club filed
a lawsuit yesterday against EPA for violating its duty to review and update
its emission standards for nitric acid plants, which produce chemicals used in
the fertilizer and explosives industries.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to update these standards every eight years,
and EPA is already more than 16 years late.  EIP and the Sierra Club are
represented by the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) at
Vermont Law School.  

Nitric acid plants generate nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas 310 times
more potent than carbon dioxide. EIP and Sierra Club hope the information
developed during the review will persuade EPA to start regulating N2O
emissions.  Nitric acid plants are, by far, the largest industrial source of
N2O in the United States, with emissions that could be controlled easily.

Eric Schaeffer, director, Environmental Integrity Project, said: "EPA would
get a lot of bang for its buck by regulating N2O emissions from nitric acid
plants. The technology for controlling N2O is cost-effective and, because N2O
is such a powerful greenhouse gas, removing even a little of it would make a
big difference."

Nitric acid plants also generate nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are the raw
ingredients of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter.  EPA has
recently discovered that these types of air pollution are much more dangerous
to public health than was previously suspected.  It is now clear that these
pollutants cause respiratory problems, heart disease, and many premature
deaths.  In addition, better and more cost-effective technologies for
controlling NOx emissions have been developed since the last standards were
set 24 years ago.

David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel, Sierra Club said: "Our goal is to
prompt EPA to review its standards for nitric acid plants, as it should have
done years ago.  The review will give the public a chance to show EPA that
dangerous NOx emissions from nitric acid plants can be reduced at a reasonable
cost."

EIP and the Sierra Club are hopeful that, under the Obama administration, EPA
will move quickly to review and revise the NSPS for nitric acid plants. 
Patrick Parenteau, senior counsel, ENRLC, said:  "It's a new day at EPA and we
fully expect a favorable reaction from Administrator Jackson."  

Indeed, in a memo to EPA employees, Lisa Jackson, the new EPA Administrator,
has committed to giving "personal attention" to "reducing greenhouse gas
emissions" and "improving air quality."

EIP and Sierra Club notified EPA of their intent to sue the agency in an
October 7, 2008 letter.  Because EPA did not commence a review of the emission
standard for nitric acid plants during the 60-day notice period, the parties
are now seeking a court order compelling EPA to review its outdated rule.  The
standard has not been revised since it was adopted in 1971, and the last
review took place twenty-four years ago, in 1984.  

EIP and Sierra Club believe EPA should move quickly to review and revise the
emission standard for nitric acid plants.  Texas and Louisiana, for instance,
are home to several large nitric acid plants.  The people in these states,
particularly in the Gulf Coast region, are suffering from serious air
pollution problems.  Moreover, both states have been ravaged by hurricanes and
other impacts from climate change.  

Teresa Clemmer, associate director, ENRLC, said: "We're hopeful this lawsuit
will focus EPA's attention on its outdated rules for nitric acid plants.  Once
EPA takes a close look at the cost-effective new technologies available for
controlling both NOx and N2O, we believe EPA will update and improve its
regulations in a relatively short period of time."

EIP and Sierra Club hope their effort will prompt EPA to take action on
greenhouse gas emissions from other sources as well.  

A copy of the complaint and the October 7, 2008 notice of intent letter are
available at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org.

ABOUT THE GROUPS

The Environmental Integrity Project (http://www.environmentalintegrity.org) is
a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former
EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of
environmental laws.  EIP has three goals: 1) to provide objective analyses of
how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution
and affects public health; 2) to hold federal and state agencies, as well as
individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with
environmental laws; and 3) to help local communities obtain the protection of
environmental laws.
 
The Sierra Club members and supporters number more than 1.3 million.  Inspired
by nature, the Sierra Club and its members work together to protect
communities and the planet. The Club is America's oldest, largest and most
influential grassroots environmental organization. For more information, go to
http://www.sierraclub.org on the Web.

Vermont Law School (VLS) -- a private, independent institution -- is
top-ranked in environmental law by U.S. News & World Report. VLS offers a
Juris Doctor (JD) curriculum that emphasizes public service, a Master of
Environmental Law and Policy (MELP) degree for lawyers and nonlawyers, and two
post-JD degrees, the Master of Laws (LLM) in Environmental Law and the LLM in
American Legal Studies (for international students). The school also features
innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center
and the South Royalton Legal Clinic. For more information, visit
http://www.vermontlaw.edu. 


SOURCE  Environmental Integrity Project, Washington, D.C.; Vermont Law School,
South Royalton, VT; Sierra Club, San Francisco, CA

Ailis Aaron Wolf, +1-703-276-3265, aawolf@hastingsgroup.com, for EIP; or
Teresa Clemmer of ENRLC, +1-802-831-1136, tclemmer@vermontlaw.edu
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