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October 7th, 2008:

EPA Is 16 Years Behind Legal Requirement For Reviewing NOx Rule

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and the Sierra Club put the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on notice today that they intend to sue the agency for violating its duty to review and update its emissions standard for nitric acid plants at least once every eight years, as required under the Clean Air Act. The two parties are represented by the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) at Vermont Law School.

In addition to compelling EPA to update its nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission standard, EIP and Sierra Club want EPA to start controlling nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from nitric acid plants. N2O is a powerful greenhouse gas. It is 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential. Nitric acid plants are, by far, the largest industrial source of N2O emissions in the United States, and these emissions would be surprisingly easy to control.

Eric Schaeffer, director, Environmental Integrity Project, said: “There are cost-effective ways to reduce nitrous oxide, using off-the-shelf technologies that have been available for years. This is one of easiest ways for EPA to start making a dent in global warming emissions.”

If EPA does not commence a review of the new source performance standard (NSPS) for NOx during the required 60-day notice period, the parties will seek a court order compelling EPA to review its standards for controlling nitrogen oxide emissions from nitric acid plants. The NOx standard has not been revised since it was adopted in 1971, and the last review took place twenty-four years ago, in 1984. This means EPA has missed its deadline by a full 16 years.

Teresa Clemmer, associate director, ENRLC, said: “This is yet another example of regulatory foot-dragging that has become so commonplace at the EPA. Much more effective and affordable technologies have been available for many years, and EPA should get started updating its regulation without any further delay.”

Better technologies, capable of substantially reducing NOx emissions, have emerged during EPA’s long period of delay. In fact, EPA issued a report in 1991 describing some of these technologies, yet it has failed to apply these findings to the nitric acid industry.

Using outdated technologies has real world consequences. NOx — a precursor to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone — is an important public health concern.

David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel, Sierra Club said: “EPA is well aware that PM2.5 is causally linked with heart disease, asthma, and lung cancer. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, and asthmatics, face the greatest risk. EPA must do a better job of protecting the public from the serious health threats posed by NOx emissions.”

EIP and the Sierra Club believe EPA should move quickly to review and revise the NSPS for nitric acid plants. Take Louisiana, for instance, which has several nitric acid plants. Many citizens of Louisiana are suffering health problems relating to NOx emissions, and the state has been ravaged by climate change.

A copy of the notice of intent letter is available at


The Environmental Integrity Project ( is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws. EIP has three goals: 1) to provide objective analyses of how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and affects public health; 2) to hold federal and state agencies, as well as individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental laws; and 3) to help local communities obtain the protection of environmental laws.

The Sierra Club members and supporters number more than 1.3 million. Inspired by nature, the Sierra Club and its members work together to protect communities and the planet. The Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. For more information, go to on the Web.

Vermont Law School (VLS) — a private, independent institution — is top-ranked in environmental law by U.S. News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor (JD) curriculum that emphasizes public service, a Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP) degree for lawyers and nonlawyers, and two post-JD degrees, the Master of Laws (LLM) in Environmental Law and the LLM in American Legal Studies (for international students). The school also features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center and the South Royalton Legal Clinic. For more information, visit

SOURCE Environmental Integrity Project; Sierra Club; Vermont Law College
Published Oct. 7, 2008
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