EPA Takes Action Against Unlawful Air Pollution Loopholes


Larisa Manescu, larisa.manescu@sierraclub.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, EPA removed the emergency affirmative defense provisions from operating permit regulations in Title V of the Clean Air Act, closing a loophole that allowed fossil fuel power plants and industrial facilities to release unlimited amounts of dangerous air pollution during startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM) events with impunity. 

During SSM events, industrial polluters sometimes release more harmful air pollution during a single pollution spike than they’re legally allowed in an entire year, and often without consequences. As long as these loopholes exist, fenceline and downwind communities can be exposed, often unknowingly, to limitless amounts of soot, smog, and toxic chemicals including ethylene oxide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrofluoric acid, sulfuric acid, and other carcinogens and neurotoxicants. 

In response, Sierra Club Senior Attorney Josh Smith released the following statement:

“We thank EPA for putting people over polluters and closing a loophole big polluters have exploited for years. The Clean Air Act is clear and courts have repeatedly held this type of loophole unlawful, yet for far too long people have continued to suffer and die from exposure to toxic air pollution from SSM events. 

“Removing these unlawful loopholes is a critical and necessary step towards safeguarding our communities – especially fenceline communities that bear the brunt of pollution – but significant work still remains. President Biden’s EPA must take immediate action to close all unlawful SSM loopholes throughout regulations implementing the Clean Air Act.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of 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.