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For Immediate Release, August 27, 2012

Contact:  Vera Pardee, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436 9682 x 317,
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557
Gretchen Brewer, Port Townsend Airwatchers, (360) 379-1239
Helen Kang, Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, Golden Gate University School of Law, (415) 442-6693

EPA to Review Pulp Mill Clean Air Standard After 17-year Delay

Lawsuit Forces Reassessment of Outdated Emission Rules After Critics Raise Public Health,
Climate Change Concerns

SAN FRANCISCO— After a 17-year delay, the Environmental Protection Agency will review Clean Air Act rules designed to reduce dangerous pollution from so-called “kraft” pulp mills under a proposed consent decree announced today by the agency and the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and Port Townsend Airwatchers.

Kraft pulp mills use chemicals to dissolve wood chips into fibers used to make paper products. The EPA has not reviewed kraft pulp mill emission-control standards, called “New Source Performance Standards,” for more than 25 years. The Clean Air Act requires such reviews every eight years to ensure that the industry uses up-to-date pollution-control technology.

“EPA will finally do what it was supposed to do all along to make sure that people who live near these types of mills get the benefit of the Clean Air Act,” said Gretchen Brewer of Port Townsend Airwatchers, an organization based near a major kraft pulp mill. “Communities living near kraft plants should not be exposed to the harmful pollutants these plants emit.”

The decree provides that by May 15, 2013, EPA must either complete a proposed rulemaking revising the standards to reflect the best-available control technology for pollution from these mills or declare that no further review is necessary. If the agency issues proposed new standards, they must be finalized no later than March 14, 2014. The consent decree will go through a notice and comment period.

Kraft pulp mills emit a substantial volume of noxious and malodorous air pollutants, including particulate matter, sulfur compounds, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. The current standards are so outdated that only two of these pollutants (particulate matter and sulfur compounds) are regulated.   

The mills also emit a significant amount of dangerous greenhouse gases, which also are not currently regulated. Because greenhouse gases are pollutants that endanger human health and welfare, the EPA must implement standards that reduce their emissions. 

“Kraft pulp mills put dangerous pollution into the air, and people living near them have no choice but to breathe it,” said Vera Pardee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s great that the EPA will finally begin this long-overdue review — it’s time to set standards that force the use of new pollution-control technologies. The Clean Air Act works well to clean up air pollution if its successful, time-tested mechanisms are actually implemented.”

“The EPA’s duty to review and update pollution standards for kraft pulp mills is crystal clear,” said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. “There’s no excuse for ignoring the law and putting the health of our citizens and our planet at risk.”

Greenpeace and Port Townsend Airwatchers are represented by Helen Kang and law students at the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law. Professor Kang said: “Technology that reduces pollution also benefits our economy. According to EPA, equipment that cuts air pollution generated over $18 billion in revenues for the U.S. economy in 2007, including $3 billion in exports.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Read the proposed consent decree, filed today.

Read the complaint filed December 6, 2011.

Read a fact sheet on kraft pulp mills. 

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