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E-M:/ Hidden loophole in 'Clear Skies' will allow more toxic pollution in Michigan



------------------------------------------------------------------------- Enviro-Mich message from Jason Barbose ------------------------------------------------------------------------- For immediate release:                                                Contact: Jason Barbose
March 1, 2005                                                 (work) 734.662.6597; (cell) 734.604.8385
                                                                                               
 
New Report Finds Waste Treatment Facilities, Electric Utilities and Other Industries Will Emit More
Toxic Chemicals into
Michigan’s Air Under ‘Clear Skies’ Bill
Hidden Loophole in ‘Clear Skies’ Bill Exempts Wide Range of Industries from
EPA Rules that Reduce Toxic Air Pollution
 
Michigan—Under the Bush administration’s “Clear Skies” bill, scheduled for a vote tomorrow in a key Senate committee, as many as 420 industrial facilities in Michigan would not have to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that require steep reductions in their emissions of dozens of pollutants that cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems, according to “Lethal Loophole,” a new report released today by PIRGIM (Public Interest Research Group in Michigan).  The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Wednesday, March 2.
 
“This bill clears the way for waste treatment facilities and electric utilities to legally pollute Michigan’s air with an alphabet soup of toxic chemicals, threatening the health of people across the state,” said Jason Barbose, PIRGIM Field Organizer.
 
The loophole, hidden in the bill’s definition of an “affected unit,” weakens current law for a wide range of industries, including oil refineries, chemical plants, and pulp and paper mills.  These industries emit dozens of toxic air pollutants, including such known human carcinogens as arsenic, benzene, and chromium, as well as lead, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals.
 
According to PIRGIM’s report, the industries covered by the loophole emitted 38.7 million pounds of toxic air pollutants into Michigan’s air in 2002.
 
“Clear Skies has always been a bad deal for Americans who want to breathe clean air,” said Barbose.  “This hidden loophole for some of the worst industrial polluters makes it even worse.”
 
Specifically, the bill allows industrial boilers and process heaters to “opt in” to the bill and “opt out” of major sections of the Clean Air Act, including a 2004 EPA rule that requires each and every industrial boiler and process heater to reduce its emissions of toxic air pollutants to the maximum extent by 2007; New Source Review, which requires old plants to eventually meet modern pollution standards; and visibility protections for national parks and wilderness areas.
 
EPA has performed no analysis to date on the effects of this loophole on public health or the environment.  As a first step to understanding the potential implications for Michigan, PIRGIM’s report uses EPA data to estimate the number of industrial facilities in Michigan that could take advantage of the loophole and their annual emissions of toxic air pollution.  The analysis is conservatively limited to industrial boilers and process heaters, though the bill, as introduced, extends the exemption to other industrial sources as well.
 
In addition to this loophole, the bill would delay until well after 2018 reductions in power plant sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions called for in the Clean Air Act by the end of this decade; repeal the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review program, which requires the oldest and dirtiest plants to eventually meet modern pollution standards; force residents of heavily-polluted areas to wait longer for clean air than under current law; and repeal protections that require every power plant to reduce mercury to the maximum extent (about 90 percent) by 2008.
 
“Clear Skies is just a clever disguise for an industry-backed attack on the Clean Air Act,” said Barbose.  “We call on Senator’s Levin and Stabenow to reject this bill,” he concluded.
 
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PIRGIM is a statewide public interest advocacy organization.
-- 
Jason Barbose
PIRGIM Field Organizer

103 E. Liberty St., Suite 202
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
734.662.6597
jason@pirgim.org
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