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February 17, 2007 by  
Filed under Archives

Approach Prohibits States from Including Adequate Monitoring
Requirements in Air Pollution Permits

WASHINGTON, D.C.///February 12, 2007///Environmentalists are heading
to court today to challenge an Environmental Protection Agency rule
that weakens clean air requirements for major industrial polluters.
The recently finalized rule enables the nation’s largest polluters to
avoid monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements needed to
document whether they are illegally polluting the air.

Today’s lawsuit will be filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by
Earthjustice on behalf of the Environmental Integrity Project, NRDC
and Sierra Club. The challenged rule undermines a key Clean Air Act
program—the “Title V operating permit program” — which is supposed to
enable the public and the government to keep close tabs on whether
industrial facilities such as power plants, oil refineries, cement
kilns, and incinerators comply with air pollution limits.

EPA’s new approach prohibits permitting authorities — predominantly
state agencies — from including supplemental monitoring requirements
in Title V operating permits beyond what is already specified in
regulations, even if existing requirements are outdated and
insufficient to demonstrate whether a particular facility is complying
with air pollution limits.

“This rule doesn’t just pull the rug out from under families who want
protection from harmful air pollution, this is pulling out the
floorboards and the foundation as well,” said Ed Hopkins, who directs
Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program. “In writing this rule,
EPA has clearly put the interests of the polluters above those of
ordinary Americans.”

“This rule is a shameful attempt to deny the public and state
regulators key information needed to hold illegal polluters
accountable for violating the law,” said Earthjustice attorney Keri

Prior to the new rule, government regulators were required to include
monitoring obligations in Title V permits sufficient to assure the
facility’s ongoing compliance with Clean Air Act requirements.
Monitoring results must be compiled at least every six months, filed
with the government, and made available to the public. Both
government regulators and members of the public can enforce permit
requirements—including pollution monitoring obligations. In light of
the new rule, EPA states that facility operators may request that
certain monitoring obligations in their existing permits be
eliminated. All permits must be renewed every five years, and if EPA’s
new rule stands, permitting authorities will be forced to strip out
supplemental monitoring requirements at that time.

“Why does the EPA want to make it easier for polluters to hide their
emissions?” asked Environmental Integrity Project attorney Ben
Wakefield. “When it comes to enforcement, EPA’s motto is, ‘see no

“This new rule ties the hands of states that genuinely want to ensure
a safe, healthy environment for their citizens,” said NRDC attorney
Patrice Simms. “No one should stand in the way of making sure children
have clean air to breathe.”

In 2004, environmental groups mounted a successful challenge to a
nearly identical EPA rule. The D.C. Circuit struck down that rule
after concluding that EPA issued it without properly notifying the
public and offering an opportunity for public comment. EPA then
initiated a comment period and proceeded to adopt the rule once again,
despite extensive public comments demonstrating that the rule will
leave state permitting authorities with no choice but to issue Title V
permits that fail to assure compliance with the Clean Air Act.

CONTACT: Keri Powell, Earthjustice (845) 265-2445; Ben Wakefield,
Environmental Integrity Project (202) 263-4450; Patrice Simms, Natural
Resources Defense Council (202) 289-2437; Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club
(202) 675-7908.

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