Energy & Environment

Lawsuit seeks updated standards for industrial pollution controls

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A coalition of 10 environmental groups is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeking to compel it to update standards for pollution control devices for facilities including petrochemical plants, gas processing facilities and municipal solid waste landfills.

The groups argue that the EPA has not complied with requirements to update the standards for the devices, called flares, for years, not making changes since two sets of standards were put forth in 1986 and 1994 respectively. 

“EPA has admitted that flares operating under these outdated standards can release many times more toxic air pollutants into local communities than estimated. This can cause serious harm to public health,” said a statement from Adam Kron, senior attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, which is one of the groups suing. 

The lawsuit argues that the flare requirements “no longer reflect the ‘the best system of emission reduction’” under the Clean Air Act. 

It cites a 2019 EPA memo stating that flares at facilities producing the compound ethylene were found to be about 90 percent efficient, as opposed to the assumed 98 percent. 

The suit acknowledges that although the EPA has not put forth new across-the-board standards, it has updated standards for specific types of facilities like petroleum refineries. 

An EPA spokesperson declined to comment, saying the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.


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