A federal court has tossed out part of the Environmental Protection Agency's emissions standards for PVC manufacturing plants, ruling that the agency failed to set limits for emissions of several hazardous air pollutants.
The June 18 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit came in response to a challenge from environmental groups Mossville Environmental Action Now and the Sierra Club.
At issue is an EPA decision to regulate emissions of vinyl chloride from PVC plants, but not to regulate other pollutants.
The EPA said that it considered vinyl chloride a ``surrogate'' for other chemicals, and that if it limited vinyl chloride, that action would de facto limit emissions of the other toxic chemicals, including vinylidene chloride and hydrogen chloride.
But the court said the EPA did not give enough evidence to support that premise.
``We do not find EPA's explanation persuasive, and hold that its determination that vinyl chloride is a surrogate for all other [hazardous air pollutants] emitted from PVC production facilities is arbitrary and capricious and not supported in the record,'' the court said.
The court sent the rule back to the EPA to be rewritten.
Earthjustice, a Washington law firm that represented MEAN and the Sierra Club, said the ruling indicates the court believes EPA needs substantive regulations for all hazardous pollutants. MEAN is an environmental group based in Mossville, La., a town near chemical manufacturing plants.
``The court has blown the whistle on the EPA's uncorroborated `surrogate' scheme, pointing out what's obvious from the agency's own decision: There's no `there,' there,'' said Howard Fox, a lawyer with Earthjustice.
``The Vinyl Institute believes the EPA did its homework,'' said Tim Burns, president of Arlington, Va.-based VI, which intervened in the case. He said the court sent the rule back on a narrow issue and did not object to most of the EPA's PVC standards.
The court did rule against several arguments made by the environmental groups. Those groups said the EPA did not set emissions levels properly or identify the five cleanest PVC plants for figuring emission targets.
The court said the EPA followed the Clean Air Act in both cases.