At the beginning of October, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) altered a policy from the Clinton administration requiring major sources of hazardous air pollutants to possess and maintain pollution control technology throughout the lifetime of operations, allowing strict standards implementing the policy to be lax. The process for the change started in 2018 after pollution sources reduced emissions from other regulations and limitations.
The specific change in policy highlights the relaxation of strict regulatory standards for companies once they have reduced pollution back below a certain limitation, yet to be determined. This will result in cost easement without undermining air quality for the environment around the workplace. According to a representative of the EPA, the policy “reduced regulatory burden while providing more fairness and flexibility” for companies making efforts to reduce their HAP emissions below the major source thresholds.
This decision has received quite a bit of backlash from environmentalists groups as well as the Environmental Defense Fund. It is believed the change in policy will create a “loophole” for large industrial companies to create more pollution, backtracking the progress so far made since the implementation of the policy in 1995. Another aspect of the resulted upset is rooted in the fact that low-income communities are often near the industrial plants, creating a potential health hazard to those residents. According to Sierra Club, “The guidance was specifically designed to secure public protection from especially hazardous air pollutants – which in most cases are carcinogenic, or neurotoxic even in small quantities – in keeping with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.”
The Environmental Protection Agency declared during 2017 that the policy’s implementation resulted in the elimination of 1.7 million tons of hazardous air pollution over two decades. This and other factors resulted in the Environmental Defense Fund’s position to pursue legal routes in its battle against the EPA’s decision once the rule is signed into law.
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