Judge rules for Clean Wisconsin, other groups in clean air case

A federal judged this week ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review health standards for hazardous air pollutants from 13 types of industrial sources, including tire, plywood, fiberglass, and other facilities.

Clean Wisconsin and three other environmental groups sued the EPA in 2016 for missing legally required deadlines to protect public health from toxic air pollution.

To protect public health and safety, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to regularly review the health and environmental hazards faced by people who live near major industrial sources.

The agency also has a duty to review the latest best available pollution control technologies. And the groups said EPA is years overdue in fulfilling its legal duty to protect people from industrial sources of toxic air pollution.

“We have a fundamental right to breathe clean air, but people throughout Wisconsin are being denied that right every day because industrial facilities are releasing toxic chemicals into the air,” Katie Nekola, general counsel for Clean Wisconsin, stated in a news release. “We have at least 35 industrial facilities that crank out toxic air pollutants across the state.”

Clean Wisconsin, Blue Ridge Environmental Council, Sierra Club and Midwest Environmental Defense Center filed suit Washington, D.C., in February 2016 on behalf of communities exposed to toxic emissions.

The plaintiffs asked the court to ensure EPA completes rulemaking to strengthen national health protections.

“We know air pollution kills by causing cancer and a range of other health problems. Yet major polluters have for years avoided reducing air pollution to protect public health, even though effective controls are readily available and in use in other places,” Nekola stated. “That’s why we are working to ensure the Clean Air Act gives children in our communities the protection they deserve.

“As EPA begins work reviewing and updating these rules, we will ensure the agency pays attention to reducing toxic pollution.”

As a result of the court decision, the EPA must review health threats and technological updates and strengthen air standards to protect public health and ensure no local communities are left behind as pollution reduction methods advance in some parts of the United States.

The EPA will have to fulfill these important Clean Air Act requirements for seven industrial sources by Dec. 31, 2018, and for the remaining six by June 30, 2020. EPA may choose the sequence in which to complete its duties for the 13 air toxics source categories, Clean Wisconsin said.