Sierra Club Legal Challenge Protects Communities from Toxic Waste Emissions
June 8, 2007
On June 8th, 2007 a federal court issued a decision which requires protective controls for toxic emissions from thousands of waste incinerators across the country. In 1999 the Sierra Club challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to exempt these waste burners from the Clean Air Act, allowing them to emit thousands of tons of toxic pollution with no control requirements. The EPA classified many industrial facilities that burn solid and industrial wastes, including chemicals, industrial sludge, plastics, agricultural waste treated with pesticides, chemically treated wood wastes, and used tires, as “boilers” rather than “incinerators”. A seemingly minor difference, this classification allowed these waste-burning facilities to slide by with the weaker pollution control standards that apply to “boilers”, which burn only fossil fuels. The court rejected this classification, making it clear that facilities that burn waste are incinerators and must meet the Clean Air Act's highly protective incinerator standards. "EPA has been caught perpetrating a bait-&-switch operation by proposing incinerator rules while exempting nearly every incinerator from the rules," said Marti Sinclair, Sierra Club's National Air Committee chair. "EPA needs to quit trying to con the public and start protecting communities, human communities and natural communities, from the ongoing deluge of toxic emissions released by incinerators."
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