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FW: Draft Proposal on "Once In, Always In"

FYI, STAPPA/ALAPCO received the following press release yesterday from
the National Resources Defense Council regarding the "once in, always
in" policy.  The rule has not been proposed, but NRDC has a copy, which
is available through the link below.  The story was aired on National
Public Radio's Morning Edition program.  

The "Once In, Always In" policy has always been a disincentive for
pollution prevention, and the statements in this press release seem
extreme.  Some of you may recall that NPPR, ECOS and others met with EPA
and tried to change this policy more than 10 years ago, when the 1995
guidance was issued.  Why not look at the benefits of having facilities
permanently change their processes and emit less than 10/25 tons of air
toxics?  NPPR and others proposed safeguards that would prevent the
scenario described below from happening--by encouraging pollution
prevention approaches rather than "synthetic minor" status.  The EPA
regional office memo also provides suggestions on how the OIAI policy
could be implemented through reductions in actual emissions.   

Marianne Fitzgerald
Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality

Contact: Edwin Chen, 202-289-2373 or cell 202-255-4476



Agency's proposal arouses internal outrage


WASHINGTON (April 3, 2006) - A secret proposal by the Environmental
Protection Agency, so controversial that it has provoked strong internal
dissent, would weaken nearly 100 toxic air pollution standards and allow
industrial plants across the country to emit significantly greater
amount of toxins, according to a draft rule obtained by the Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 


The draft rule (see http://www.nrdc.org/media/docs/060403a.pdf) would
seriously erode existing standards under the Clean Air Act by permitting
thousands of oil refineries, hazardous waste incinerators, chemical
plants and steel mills to increase their emissions by as much as 50,000
pounds a year.


Yet EPA dismisses the concerns of its own experts by asserting that
polluters would not increase their emissions because they fear "negative
publicity" and because they want to "maintain their appearance as
responsible businesses."


The rule is so extreme that officials at eight out of the EPA's nine
regional offices joined in a nine-page memo to protest the proposal,
saying that, if implemented, it "would be detrimental to the environment
and undermine the intent" of the Clean Air Act.


The scathing internal memo (http://www.nrdc.org/media/docs/060403b.pdf)
also said the rule would create a loophole that allows polluters to
"virtually avoid regulation and greatly complicate any enforcement
against them" and eliminate the ability of EPA and the public to
effectively monitor and take action against toxic polluters.


"Such objections underscore how the EPA would weaken the law and allow
even more cancer-causing pollution into the air we breathe. This
proposal is indefensible," said John Walke, clean air director for NRDC.
"No wonder even some of EPA's own experts are outraged by this secretly
hatched plan to please polluters and their powerful friends.''


In their memo to headquarters, the regional EPA officials also protested
the preparation of the proposed rule without their input, characterizing
the slight as part of a disturbing "trend."


The rule was drafted during the tenure of William Wehrum, acting head of
EPA's air office, and would reverse longstanding agency policy. The rule
also seeks to go much further than a controversial 2003 approach sought
by Wehrum's predecessor, Jeffery Holmstead.


President Bush has nominated Wehrum to succeed Holmstead. His
confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee is scheduled for Wednesday.


"Any nominee willing to weaken existing Clean Air Act protections to
allow more cancer-causing pollution does not deserve the privilege of
leading EPA's clean air programs," said Walke.  "Mr. Wehrum should
disavow this proposal, explain his role in its preparation and tell the
American people whether this is how he plans to protect the air we
breathe and the food we eat."


The Clean Air Act requires EPA to impose standards for 188 different
toxic substances emitted by industrial sources, ranging from benzene and
asbestos to chlorine and formaldehyde. The draft rule would loosen
restrictions on these toxic substances emitted by some 174 industrial


The law also imposed restrictions on plants that annually emitted 10
tons or more of a single toxin, or 25 tons or more of a combination of


EPA was required to adopt "maximum achievable control technology" (MACT)
standards to force such plants to slash their emissions by 95 percent or
more. The standards are based on the performance of the average of the
top 12 percent of facilities in an industrial sector.


For example, an oil refinery that emitted 100 tons of a combination of
toxins might be required to slash its toxic emissions to 5 tons per


Under the proposed rule, however, that refinery can turn around and
increase its toxic emissions to just below the 25-ton threshold and
still escape controls -- while increasing its toxic emissions nearly
five fold.


Because the proposed rule would allow facilities to escape the toxics
standards mandated by Congress, such plants also could then evade the
monitoring, recordkeeping, reporting and other compliance obligations
associated with being subject to these standards. 


The EPA rule itself acknowledges that some plants therefore "may"
increase the amount of their pollutants, but it goes on to assert that
they would unlikely do so out of concern for their public image. 


But the agency's regional officials called those assertions "unfounded
and overly optimistic" and said the proposed rule would contradict the
intent of the MACT standards.


In addition, according to Walke, the rule fails to explain how the
public - or the government - would even know when violations occur,
since the rule would relieve exempted facilities from monitoring and
reporting requirements.


 "The EPA has surrendered its responsibilities," Walke said. "Why is the
environmental cop on the beat throwing away his weapon and crossing his
fingers that the bad guys will make nice voluntarily?  What has EPA come
to that it is abandoning law enforcement against toxic polluters and
hoping the media will pick up the slack?" 


Only a month ago, EPA proposed to allow the drinking water supplies
serving America's small communities to contain three times the level of
contaminants currently allowed.


The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit
organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists
dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in
1970, NRDC has more than 1.2 million members and online activists
nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and
San Francisco.


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