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High Court Refuses To Hear Air Pollution Case

by Glenn Hess
March 15, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 11

The Supreme Court has let stand a lower court decision that struck down an EPA rule allowing refineries, chemical plants, and other major industrial complexes to exceed air emissions standards when starting up or closing down a facility or when equipment malfunctions. The high court declined to review a December 2008 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stating that the Clean Air Act did not allow EPA “to relax emission standards on a temporal basis.” EPA did not seek Supreme Court review, but the American Chemistry Council and other industry groups did. In their petition, they argued that the exemption is necessary because it is “impossible for businesses to meet the otherwise applicable emission standard” during nonroutine events, such as equipment failures, start-ups, and shutdowns. Environmental activists welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. “Start-ups, shutdowns, and malfunctions create some of the highest volumes and worst toxic air pollution released by large industrial factories, and nearby communities suffer the horrible impacts of the chemicals dumped into their air supply,” says Neil Carman, clean air director for the Sierra Club’s Texas chapter.


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