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US EPA sued for missing two key deadlines

Environmental law firm files lawsuits to force the agency to review an overdue air toxics emission standard and complete pending chemical risk evaluations

by Krystal Vasquez
September 21, 2023


The outside of an EPA building.
Credit: dave7/Wikimedia Commons
A US Environmental Protection Agency building in Washington, DC.

Environmental justice and health advocates have filed two lawsuits against the US Environmental Protection Agency. The suits, filed on Sept. 18, say that the EPA missed key deadlines to review an air toxics emission standard and complete risk evaluations for 22 chemicals.

The first lawsuit focuses on air pollution regulations for manufacturers of polyether polyols, chemicals used to make adhesives, cosmetics, and soaps. During the production process, these facilities, located mostly in Louisiana, Texas, and West Virginia, emit ethylene oxide, which the EPA classified as a carcinogen in 2016.

Because of the significant health risk associated with ethylene oxide, the EPA recently sought to reduce emissions from commercial sterilizers and chemical plants. However, the last time the EPA updated the standards for polyether polyol manufacturers was in 2014.

The Clean Air Act mandates that the agency review its emission standards every 8 years, meaning the rules for polyether polyol production should have been reevaluated in 2022.

“These outdated standards fail to adequately protect communities, instead allowing facilities to emit unacceptable levels of carcinogenic air pollution,” Earthjustice, the environmental law firm representing the advocate groups, says in a press release announcing the lawsuit.

The second lawsuit, which was also brought by Earthjustice attorneys, focuses on overdue risk evaluations for 22 chemicals, including phthalates and chlorinated compounds. The EPA began assessing the health and environmental risks of these compounds under the Toxic Substances Control Act and was supposed to complete the evaluations by July 2023.

All the chemicals are designated as high priority by the agency.

“Completing these overdue risk evaluations is the first step the EPA must take to regulate these harmful chemicals,” Earthjustice says in a press release. Any delay prevents the agency from imposing bans or restrictions on these compounds, it adds.

Neither lawsuit seeks monetary compensation. Rather, they ask that the court set deadlines for the EPA to reevaluate its emission standards for polyether polyol manufacturers and complete the 22 pending risk evaluations.

Despite being filed on the same day, these two lawsuits are not related, according to an Earthjustice spokesperson.



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