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Lawsuit to Challenge EPA Chlorine Rules

Posted on behalf of Jodi Theut <cleanwaternt@igc.org>

On May 7 a number of Clean Water Network organizations -- the NWF, NRDC,
Natural Resources Council of Maine, American Canoe Association, Clark
Fork-Pend Oreille Coalition and the Penobscot Nation filed suit against
EPA challenging the Agency's issuance of its weak and ineffectual water
and air pollution control rules for the pulp and paper industry (the
'Cluster Rule').   The pulp and paper industry is the second largest
known source of dioxin and related compounds that are linked to cancer
and other health problem.

Below is the press release issued by NWF regarding the lawsuit.

People and Nature:  Our Future Is in the Balance

Communications Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   Contacts:Neil Kagan(734)769-3351
May 7, 1998                             Laura Rose Day (734)769-3351
                                        Carrie Schluter (703)790-4000

Status Quo Approach Threatens People And Wildlife 
Conservation groups are suing to demand that the U. S. Environmental
Protection Agency tighten newly published regulations for limiting pulp
and paper industry discharges of chemicals that threaten the health of
people and wildlife.  
   The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), its state affiliate, The
Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Natural Resources Defense
Council, the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Coalition, the American Canoe
Association, and the Penobscot Nation, charge that EPA's selection of
the most lenient of three available approaches to reducing toxic
by-products of the paper bleaching process violates the Clean Water Act
by not adopting the "best available technology" as the law requires.
    "EPA has a legal and moral obligation to protect people and the
environment from the dangers of these chemicals," said NWF President
Mark Van Putten.  "It does not have the option of staying with the
status quo simply because the industry prefers it."
    The "status quo" amounts to extensive use of bleaching processes
involving chlorine, which creates dioxin and other toxic by-products.
EPA's recently-published "cluster rule" seeks to reduce toxic outputs
incrementally,but it locks the U.S. pulp and paper industry into a
chlorine-based process at a time that foreign mills are adopting more
cost-efficient and environmentally sound technologies. 
     By incorporating a process known as oxygen delignification, the
second option would have dramatically reduced the pollutants released
into waterways by pulp and paper plants, and it would have taken the
industry one step closer to Totally Chlorine Free technology, which is
the environmental best-case scenario.
 "By failing to approve the better technological option, the agency has
permitted the ongoing contamination of our treaty-protected natural
resources,"said John Banks, Director of Natural Resources for the
Penobscot Nation.
    "The arbitrary nature of this decision is especially troubling in
light of the proven health impacts of dioxins and related toxic
pollutants on people and wildlife," said Van Putten. According to EPA's
own draft assessment, human health threats linked to the chemicals in
question include increased rates of cancer, reproductive abnormalities,
impaired immune systems, and learning and behavioral disorders. 
Children are most vulnerable, as they can become exposed in utero and
while nursing when their bodily systems are in delicate stages of
development.  Serious health effects have also been observed in mammals,
birds, and fish, including birds with crossed bills, fish with tumors,
eggshell thinning, and other reproductive problems.   
     "Industry claims that the costs of addressing these threats will
force plant closings and job losses are nothing but fear-mongering,"
said NWF attorney Neil Kagan.  "Yes, there will be some up-front
investment in doing the right thing, but over time the environmentally
preferable option will cost the industry less.  And can you even put a
price on reducing the harm to people and wildlife?"
     EPA's own analysis shows that more than 90% of existing mills could
afford to implement the oxygen delignification process."EPA's decision
might even harm companies in the long run by encouraging an investment
in antiquated technology," said NRDC Senior Attorney Jessica Landman. 
"It actually creates a disincentive to work toward the Clean Water Act
goal of zero discharge.  We intend to make sure that the industry
invests in newer technology to protect people and wildlife."
    The National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Council of
Maine,Natural Resources Defense Council, Clark Fork-Pend Oreille
Coalition, Penobscot Nation, and the American Canoe Association will
continue to address this serious public health threat and fight for a
solution that protects our families and wildlife and ensures a viable
American paper industry.
     The nation's largest member-supported conservation education and
advocacy group, the National Wildlife Federation unites people from all
walks of life to protect nature, wildlife, and the world we all share. 
The Federation has educated and inspired families to uphold America's
conservation tradition since 1936.  Its common-sense approach to
environmental protection brings individuals, organizations, and
governments together to ensure a brighter future for people and
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Kathy Nemsick           I       Jodi Theut
National Coordinator    I       Outreach Coordinator
202-289-2395            I       202-289-2421