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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EPA Snoozing on Pulp Mills, Greens Say

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The EPA is six years overdue to review emission standards for pulp mills, the Sierra Club claims in court.

The Sierra Club and California Communities Against Toxics sued EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on March 12, under the Clean Air Act.

The Act requires the EPA to review emission standards for hazardous air pollutants no later than eight years after those standards are promulgated, and to revise the standards if necessary.

The EPA has not done that for chemical recovery combustion sources at Kraft, soda, sulfite and stand-alone semichemical pulp mills, nor for plants that manufacture nutritional yeast.

A Kraft pulp mill turns wood chips into pulp by treating it with sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide.

Soda pulp mills treat softer woods and straw with sodium hydroxide, sulfite mills with salts of sulfurous acid.

Paper-making, of which wood pulping is an initial process, is an enormously stinky procedure.

The deadline to review standards for pulp mills was Jan. 12, 2009, and the deadline for the yeast plants was May 21, 2009.

"Each day the administrator fails to take these legally required actions, EPA commits new, additional, and ongoing violations of its duties," the lawsuit states.

The pollutants at issue can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, neurological harm and other problems. They also contain "volatile organic compounds, which contribute to ambient ozone that can harm plant species and can result in changes in wildlife habitat," reduce biodiversity and alter ecosystems, according to the complaint.

The EPA's to review the emission standards deprives the public of information about the best available pollution control practices and technologies, and also denies the opportunity for public commentary on the agency's "overdue rulemakings," the environmental groups say.

The foot-dragging also delays judicial review of the standards, which harms the plaintiff's ability to "protect their interests and fulfill their organizational missions."

The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment and want the EPA ordered to review the emission standards and promulgate its findings.

They are represented by Paul Cort with Earthjustice in San Francisco.

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