Environmental Coalition Urges Further Action After Biden Administration Moves To Close Egregious Polluter Loopholes

EPA has reinstated its 2015 policy prohibiting Startup, Shutdown, Malfunction clean air loopholes

Adil Trehan, adil.trehan@sierraclub.org, 202-630-7275

Anne Hawke, ahawke@nrdc.org, 646-823-4518

Washington, D.C. — The EPA has announced the withdrawal of guidance from the Trump Administration that allowed states to create loopholes that permit industrial facilities, such as coal plants and oil refineries, to release unlimited amounts of dangerous air pollution during startup, showdown, and malfunction (SSM) events without facing legal consequences under the Clean Air Act. The announcement reinstates EPA’s 2015 policy prohibiting those loopholes and requiring 36 states to correct those illegal provisions. EPA also announced its intent to revisit the Trump Administration’s approval of illegal SSM loopholes for polluters in Texas, North Carolina, and Iowa.


“For over twenty years, communities in the east end barrios of Houston have suffered disproportionate health impacts during these pollution dumping events,” said Bryan Parras, Sierra Club Healthy Communities and longtime Houston environmental justice organizer. “This long lack of oversight has created an environment of learned helplessness where our community has lost confidence in the willingness of regulators to enforce the law. EPA’s plan to close these loopholes is a step in the right direction, but EPA needs to eliminate these loopholes in every rule where they are found - including in refinery and petrochemical rules - once and for all.”

“It’s past time for North Carolina to follow the law, protect communities, and get these harmful loopholes off the books,“ said June Blotnick, CleanAIRE NC executive director, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“We applaud EPA’s decision to do the right thing to protect fenceline and downwind communities and once again declare these loopholes impermissible in state plans,” said Patton Dycus, senior attorney from Environmental Integrity Project. “We also urge EPA to swiftly implement its 2015 ‘SIP call’ to require states to remove these unlawful loopholes and to promptly require additional states not covered by the 2015 rule to eliminate similar free passes.” 

“Closing these loopholes will help the Clean Air Act actually deliver on its promise of clean air for all,” said Emily Davis, senior attorney for the climate and clean energy program at NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It sets limits where there currently are none—and requires industry to clean up polluting facilities that harm communities all over the country. This is an important step, and we urge EPA to continue to close these loopholes in state plans and throughout the Clean Air Act.”

“This is a relief and now we look to EPA to promptly commit to fix the same problem in its air toxics rules that especially harm fenceline communities,” said Terry McGuire, senior legislative representative from Earthjustice. “EPA needs to end the dangerous SSM loopholes that give industry free passes to pollute through flares and valves, and that allow refineries and petrochemical plants to evade emission standards during malfunctions labeled as ‘force majeure events’ like the large releases during this year’s hurricane and winter storms.” 

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.