Environmental Groups Threaten to Sue EPA Over Pulp Mill Regulations

Sept. 26, 2011 (Press Release) - The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and Port Townsend Airwatchers today officially gave the Environmental Protection Agency 60 days’ notice of their intent to sue the agency over its failure to review and update Clean Air Act rules regulating pollution from kraft pulp mills. Kraft pulp mills dissolve wood chips into fibers used to make paper products.

The EPA has not reviewed the pollution-emission standards for kraft pulp mills, called New Source Performance Standards, for more than 25 years. But the Clean Air Act requires such reviews every eight years for the most polluting types of industrial air-pollution sources. The purpose of the review is to keep performance standards current and ensure that these industries use up-to-date pollution-control technology.

“Kraft pulp mill performance standards have been neglected for a quarter of a century, and our citizens’ health has suffered the consequences,” said Gretchen Brewer of Port Townsend Airwatchers.

Kraft pulp mills emit a substantial volume of noxious air pollutants, including particulate matter, sulfur compounds, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. The standards are so outdated for kraft pulp mills that only two of these pollutants (particulate matter and sulfur compounds) are currently subject to any controls at all.

The mills are also significant emitters of dangerous greenhouse gases, which also remain unregulated by EPA’s performance standards. Because greenhouse gases are pollutants that endanger human health and welfare, EPA has a duty to set performance-standards that limit them.

“The EPA is allowing these pulp mills to operate under outdated regulations that put public health and our climate at risk,” said Vera Pardee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s no excuse for the EPA’s clear violation of the law in not conducting a timely review of emission standards for these polluting plants.”

“The EPA is derelict in its duty to regulate the kraft pulp industry,” said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. “It’s the EPA’s job to make sure that this industry improves in terms of climate and air pollution. The Clean Air Act is very clear on that.”

This 60-day notice of intent to sue is required by the citizen suit provision of the Clean Air Act. Greenpeace and Port Townsend Airwatchers are represented by Helen Kang and law students at the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law.

SOURCE: The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, Port Townsend Airwatchers