SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge gave the Environmental Protection Agency until October 2017 to revise the emission standards for pulp mills and nutritional yeast manufacturers.
The Sierra Club and California Communities Against Toxics sued the EPA in March 2015, claiming the agency failed to review and revise as necessary the emission standards for hazardous air pollutants no later than eight years after the standards are initially promulgated, in violation of the Clean Air Act.
The environmental nonprofits claimed the EPA failed to comply with these obligations for "chemical recovery combustion sources at Kraft, soda, sulfite and stand-alone semichemical pulp mills" as well as for "manufacturing of nutritional yeast."
In his 12-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam said that "plaintiffs and defendant agree that there is no dispute the EPA has failed to fulfill certain mandatory rulemaking duties," adding, "The only question before the court is how long the EPA should be given to comply with its statutory obligations," Gilliam said.
He ordered the agency to revise the emissions standards by Oct. 1, 2017, finding that the EPA's proposed timetables for the process did not constitute a "reasonable" timeframe.
"The EPA has not met its burden of showing it would be infeasible to complete the requested rulemakings on or before Oct. 1, 2017," Gilliam said.
Entering judgment in favor of the nonprofits, Gilliam granted declaratory relief to the plaintiffs and ordered the EPA to revise the emissions standards for the manufacturers at issue by the designated date.
Nick Morales, who represented the plaintiffs, said in an email that "for years, EPA refused to do its job while people across the country were forced to breathe cancer-causing pollution because of outdated pollution limits on pulp mills."
Gilliam's ruling "makes clear that EPA violated the law by ignoring its responsibility to protect people's health," Morales said.
The EPA's counsel did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on Thursday afternoon.