Appeals Court Rebukes EPA's Standards to Reduce Emissions from Brick, Tile Manufacturing

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected EPA's Clean Air Act standards for more than 500 plants that manufacture brick and clay structural products and ceramics. The court found that EPA's standards directly violated the law and previous decisions made by the D.C. Circuit (Sierra Club vs. EPA, No. 031202A, March 13, 2007).

The lawsuit was brought by Sierra Club, represented in court by Earthjustice. At issue were the highly protective requirements in the Clean Air Act's toxic provisions, which call for EPA to set standards for entire industries that reflect the emission levels achieved by the cleanest plants that are currently in operation. The D.C. Circuit found in its decision that EPA has repeatedly violated this requirement in standards the agency has set for a wide variety of industries, including cement plants and garbage incinerators.

The court found that the standards at issue run counter to the two other decisions in several other respects -- all variations on the agency's "fundamental failure" to set floors (or minimum stringency requirements) at the emission levels actually achieved by the best-performing sources.

According to Earthjustice, brick kilns and ceramics kilns emit more that 6,000 tons of toxic chemicals into the air each year, including hydrofluoric acid, hydrochloric acid and particulate matter containing toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium and lead, which can lead to cancer, respiratory damage and neurological and organ damage.

The court remanded the emission standards for both brick and ceramics kilns, stating that if EPA disagrees with the Clean Air Act's requirements for setting emissions standards, it should take its concerns to Congress. "If EPA disagrees with this court's interpretation of the Clean Air Act, it should seek rehearing en banc or file a petition for a writ of certiorari. In the meantime, it must obey the Clean Air Act as written by Congress and interpreted by this court," the court stated.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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