About 200 large chemicals and plastics resin plants are facing much tougher rules for fenceline emissions under an April 6 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal that's drawing concerns from industry groups and praise from environmentalists.
The major update of federal emissions rules would require factories to cut discharges for about 80 chemicals and require, for the first time, fenceline emission monitoring for six chemicals, including plastics building blocks like benzene, 1,3-butadiene and vinyl chloride.
It would also remove the general exemptions the plants currently have from emissions control rules in so-called startup, shutdown or malfunction events like hurricanes.
At a news conference in front of a Louisiana chemical plant, and with cows grazing in a field in front of the facility, EPA Administrator Michael Regan linked the proposal to his November 2021 environmental justice tour of communities around chemical plants.
Some of the strictest provisions in the proposal would apply to ethylene oxide and chloroprene.
"When finalized this rule will drastically reduce the risk of cancer caused by exposure to EtO and chloroprene, especially in states like Louisiana and Texas, where the vast majority of these facilities are located," Regan said. "The proposed rule would also cut the emission of nearly 80 additional air toxic pollutants from plants … in other parts of the country."
The new EPA proposal comes about six weeks after the agency and the Department of Justice sued Denka Performance Elastomers LLC to reduce chloroprene emissions at its facility in LaPlace, La.
The EPA plan also comes after the agency agreed last year to develop new rules to settle lawsuits from environmental groups. The agency said it hopes to finish the rules in about a year.