Andrew Wheeler Rips Open Loophole for Companies to Pollute Vulnerable Communities with Impunity


Brian Willis: 202.675.2386,

Washington, D.C. - Former coal lobbyist and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler delivered his draft plan today to the federal register to reopen the Startup, Shutdown, Malfunction (SSM) loopholes in Texas, which would allow dirty industrial facilities to release massive amounts of dangerous pollution generally not allowed under the Clean Air Act onto vulnerable communities. The SSM loopholes have been decried by public health and environmental justice organizations as an irresponsible and dangerous giveaway to polluters that threatens the health of low income and communities of color.

The SSM loopholes allow polluting facilities to release unlimited amounts of pollution during their startups, shutdowns, and malfunctions without legal recourse under the Clean Air Act. Some facilities, such as coal plants and oil refineries, have been known to release more pollution during SSM events than they emitted during normal operations throughout the entire year, presenting major health risks to local people with asthma, children, and seniors that unsuspectingly venture outside for daily activities.

In 2015, the EPA closed these loopholes by issuing a new rule and requiring 36 states to revise provisions in their policies that exempt SSM events from Clean Air Act protections and allow polluters to avoid responsibility for repeated violations. The agency's decision reflected years of hard work from citizen and environmental groups and legal advocates across the country, who had been fighting to protect affected communities and urging EPA to redress these widespread problems.  

Today’s draft decision allows Texas to deviate from EPA’s 2015 rule, and callously claims that there are no environmental or public health implications. Texas polluters have taken advantage of these loopholes to avoid liability for undisputed permit violations resulting in hundreds of thousands of tons of illegal pollution impacting nearby vulnerable communities.

In response, Suzie Canales, Director of Citizens for Environmental Justice, based in Corpus Christi, released the following statement:

“It is very disappointing and frustrating that Andrew Wheeler is attempting to undo the SSM rule that would hold polluters accountable for their constant upset events that directly and adversely impact the health and safety of environmental justice communities. These communities live under barbaric conditions due to their close proximity to heavy polluting industry and they pay the price for the products the rest if the country leisurely enjoy. We're not asking for these industries to be run out of  town, we're simply asking for them to abide by the Clean Air Act.” 

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