Saturday, December 16, 2006

Clean Air, Citizen Rights Win as Loophole Eliminated

Clean air and citizens' rights were the big winners yesterday as the "upset conditions" loophole was officially eliminated by the Air Quality Control Commission. The action comes nearly a year after Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action formally petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make the state of Colorado get rid of the loophole, which has threatened clean air for over 30 years.

The "upset conditions" loophole has allowed polluters in Colorado to avoid complying with clean air standards in the event of an upset, also known as a malfunction. As a result, it has provided incentives for polluters to poorly operate and maintain their equipment. Over 2,500 upsets have been reported by polluters in Colorado just since 1999, releasing everything from dioxins to sulfur dioxide into our air.

Two proposals were on the table yesterday, Option 1 and Option 2. Option 1 was endorsed by citizens and was based on recommendations from the EPA. Option 2 was sponsored by industry and, in many ways, continued to allow unhealthy air pollution during upsets.

At the 11th hour however, industry pulled Option 2 off the table and agreed to support Option 1, with only minor changes. The Air Quality Control Commission quickly moved to adopt the agreed upon rule. The new rule is an important compromise between citizens and industry. In this case, collaboration was the key. Most importantly, the new rule preserves citizens' rights to enforce the clean air act and holds industry accountable to clean air.

Special thanks to Richard Cargill, pictured above with his wife, of the St. Vrain Valley Community Watchdogs for rallying support among his community for eliminating the "upset conditions" loophole. Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action is proud to have Richard as a member and an ally!

The new rule could not have come about without the support of the many citizens who attended yesterday's hearing. The St. Vrain Valley Community Watchdogs, Friends of the St. Vrain River Valley, and the Mothers Against Burning Tires have been especially instrumental in their support. These groups have worked tirelessly to hold the CEMEX Lyons cement plant, a chronic upset polluter, accountable to clean air. They have helped everyone understand that "upsets" can and do threaten clean air and community health.

Yesterday was a milestone for clean air in Colorado. Hopefully there are more to come.


At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is fantastic news. Thanks to everyone who worked on this important issue of accountability under the law.

Emilyn, Lyons Resident


Post a Comment

<< Home