An EPA proposal to regulate fenceline air pollution from large plastics and chemical plants is drawing intense scrutiny, with industry accusing the agency of exceeding its authority but others saying action is needed to cut cancer risk in nearby communities.
The new Environmental Protection Agency proposal, covering about 200 of the largest chemical and plastics plants, is a major update to some Clean Air Act (CAA) provisions. Plastics News, a Rubber News sister publication, is examining the first detailed comments the agency has received on its April plan.
EPA wants to require those factories to cut discharges of nearly 80 chemicals, including chloroprene used in making elastomers and ethylene oxide, where EPA projected the largest cancer reduction risks.
As well, it proposed tighter flaring rules it said would sharply cut some emissions, and it proposed eliminating some emissions rules exemptions the factories have during startup operations, malfunctions and major disruptions like hurricanes.
The agency's plan also, for the first time, sets up detailed fenceline monitoring for six chemicals, including plastic building blocks like benzene, 1,3-butadiene and vinyl chloride, building on an effort used around reducing benzene from petroleum refineries.
EPA said the plan would reduce elevated cancer risks from air toxins by 96 percent in communities within 6 miles of the plants overall, although some environmental groups said their own analyses pointed to shortcomings in cancer reduction.