Thought Leadership

EPA Agrees to Review Chemical Industry Standards

Client Updates

On December 7, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requested public comment on a proposed consent decree that would require EPA to review and, if appropriate, propose revisions to emissions standards by December 2022 for the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturing Industry (SOCMI).  See Notice attached.  The consent decree would resolve a D.C. District Court lawsuit filed by the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, and others.

The lawsuit alleges that EPA failed to meet its statutory duty to review regulations for this sector every eight years, noting that EPA previously committed to examining the emission standards for the industry after its National Air Toxics Assessment revealed “extreme cancer risk hot spots.”  The complaint further alleges that “[w]hile EPA has failed to act, a pandemic has worsened the harm for communities where, research shows, air pollution has increased mortality from COVID-19” and that communities exposed to chemical plants’ emissions are “disproportionately communities of color and low-income.”  See Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, attached.

Specifically, the complaint alleges EPA failed under section 7412(d)(6) of the Clean Air Act to “review and, if appropriate, revise” the New Source Performance Standards or to promulgate a determination that revision “is not appropriate in light of readily available information on the efficacy of such standard[s]” for four categories of the SOCMI stationary sources, specifically 40 CFR part 60, subparts:

  • III (Air Oxidation Unit Processes),
  • NNN (Distillation Operations),
  • RRR (Reactor Processes), and
  • VVa (Equipment Leaks in the SOCMI Which Construction, Reconstruction, or Modification Commenced After November 7, 2006).

Further, the complaint asserts that EPA failed to “review, and revise as necessary” the Hazardous Organic NESHAP rule at least every eight years, specifically 40 CFR part 63, subparts:

  • F (Organic Hazardous Air Pollutants),
  • G (Process Vents, Storage Vessels, Transfer Operations, and Wastewater),
  • H (Equipment Leaks), and
  • I (Certain Processes Subject to the Negotiated Regulation for Equipment Leaks).

The proposed consent decree requires EPA to review and determine if revisions or a new rule is needed by December 16, 2022, and take final action by March 29, 2024.  Interested parties can submit comments online at https://www.regulations.gov by searching for Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OGC-2021-0850.

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