The Environmental Protection Agency has filed a proposed consent decree to reevaluate regulations on the emissions standards of synthetic organic chemical manufacturers.
The motion was made public in December in response to a lawsuit filed by the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and other groups that the EPA had missed Clean Air Act deadlines to address pollution created by the chemical plants. Through the consent decree the agency could tighten regulations, or pass on making changes, with different actions through 2024.
Under the Clean Air Act the EPA is supposed to review and make regulation changes if necessary regarding the emissions standards and pollution control technology for hazardous pollutants every eight years. The agency has missed that mark according to the suit.
In addressing the lawsuit, the EPA has proposed to review whether or not to revise rules regarding the synthetic organic chemical manufacturing industry and new performance standards by December of this year. The agency says it must sign a final rule with revisions to the regulations or make a formal decision not to do anything more by March 2024.
In September the EPA partially granted the administrative petition of the lawsuit by stating its intention to conduct a human health risk assessment, according to the consent decree.
The lawsuit points out more than 300 plants that produce a variety of materials, including plastics and synthetic rubber. The facilities can produce toxic emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane, ethane and benzene.
In 2021 the EPA cracked down on several companies that have chemical plants that violated the Clean Air Act.
United States subsidiaries of LyondellBasell Industries agreed in October to make $50 million in facilities improvements to operate air pollution control and monitor their industrial flares. In January 2021, Dow Chemical Company agreed to make $294 million of similar improvements due to violations of the act.
Advancing environmental justice has also been part of the focus of the Biden Administration’s wide scope of climate goals, including elements in the still being discussed Build Back Better Act.
If the EPA’s consent decree is approved by the courts after a 30-day discussion period ends this month it would end the lawsuit filed by the advocacy groups.