Federal court upholds EPA pollutant rule

Federal court upholds EPA pollutant rule
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The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule on emissions of certain toxic air pollutants at manufacturing plants.

The EPA’s 2012 rule was challenged by both the industry, which said it was too stringent, and environmental groups, which argued it didn’t go far enough.

But the Circuit Court upheld the rule and said the EPA took the steps necessary to justify it on both counts.

“We conclude that EPA’s methodology passes muster,” the court wrote. “Keeping in mind the ‘wide latitude’ we afford EPA’s expertise-informed choice of data-gathering methodology, we find that EPA’s data-collection process was reasonable.”

The EPA released its rule limiting hexavalent chromium, a carcinogenic released into the air during chrome-finishing processes at manufacturing plants, in August 2012, saying it was likely to reduce emissions of the toxin by 224 pounds per year.

The agency said the rule would apply to around 1,350 facilities around the country, but that more than 85 percent of them were already in compliance with the new standards.

Implementing the rule would cost $2.6 million annually, EPA said, but most facilities would need to pay less than $1,000 to comply. The agency acknowledged a “small subset of large hard chrome facilities” would need retrofits costing up to $65,000.

Public health and environmental groups said the EPA should have set a higher minimum standard for technologies designed to reduce the pollutant. The court said that step wasn’t necessary in this rule.

The National Association for Surface Finishing, which represents the surface coating industry, sued over the rule, arguing it was too stringent. But the court ruled that the EPA justified its new regulations properly given the emission technologies available to the industry and the data it used to write the rule.

“We uphold EPA’s model as long as the agency ‘explain[s] the assumptions and methodology used in preparing the model’ and ‘provide[s] a complete analytic defense’ should the model be challenged,” the court wrote.