The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) petitioned the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) to end the release of hazardous air pollutants in
Brunswick, Georgia, at levels known to be unhealthy. The EPA has proposed in
the Federal Register to remove the rule under which the GEC has petitioned
the EPA to control the release of hazardous chemicals in Brunswick, Georgia,
in an effort to thwart efforts of the GEC to end unhealthy air releases that
are a threat to our children, our health, and our economy.
The GEC sought relief from unhealthy levels of hazardous air pollutants
under Georgia Rule for Air Quality Control, 391-3-1.02(2)(a)1, which the EPA
seeks to remove from the Georgia State Implementation Plan (SIP). The SIP is
what guides air permits to industries that release toxic chemicals to the
air. The section the EPA is seeking to remove from the Georgia SIP through
the proposed rule states:
"No person owning, leasing, or controlling, the operation of any air
contaminant sources shall willfully, negligently or through failure to
provide necessary equipment or facilities or to take necessary precautions,
cause, permit, or allow the emission from said air contamination source or
sources, of such quantities of air contaminants as will cause, or tend to
cause, by themselves, or in conjunction with other air contaminants,
a condition of air pollution in quantities or characteristics or of a
duration which is injurious or which unreasonably interferes with the
enjoyment of life or use of property in such area of the State as is
affected thereby. Complying with any of the other sections of these rules
and regulations or any subdivisions thereof, shall in no way exempt a person
from this provision."
The EPA contends that the Georgia Rule is "...the State’s general
‘nuisance’ rule." The Georgia Board of Natural Resources established the
Georgia Rule for Air Quality Control as the overriding priority of the SIP
program, and noted, "Complying with any of the other sections of these
rules and regulations or any subdivisions thereof, shall in no way exempt a
person from this provision." Obviously, the State put great importance
in the Rule, and wanted the Rule to guide air permitting decisions.
Unfortunately, the SIP as implemented has resulted in unhealthy air in
Brunswick, Georgia, and the EPA, through the proposed rule, is seeking to
frustrate GEC efforts to bring resolution to the current situation.
The EPA has provided the American people a Plain English Guide to the
Clean Air Act in which they provided information about the effects of
unhealthy air pollution and actions citizens can take when the State or EPA
do not enforce the Clean Air Act or SIP. The physical symptoms of air
pollution and health effects described by the EPA exist in Brunswick,
Georgia, and have been documented many times in Georgia Environmental
Protection Division complaint records. "Air pollution can make you sick.
It can cause burning eyes and nose and an itchy, irritated throat, as well
as trouble in breathing. Some chemicals found in polluted air cause cancer,
birth defects, brain and nerve damage and long-term injury to the lungs and
breathing passages. Some air pollutants are so dangerous that accidental
releases can cause serious injury or even death."
The only documentation in support of removal of the Rule was a
two-sentence, October 31, 2005, e-mail from Ron Methier, Georgia EPD, to
Dick Schutt, EPA Region 4. The e-mail stated, "In review of our Georgia
Air Quality Control Rules and state implementation plan submittals we have
concluded that our ‘nuisance rule’, 391-3-1-.02(2)(a)1 has never been relied
on or attributed to in any such plan." The e-mail implies that a review
was performed by the Georgia EPD and a conclusion was reached, but no review
was provided by the Georgia EPD as documentation for the proposed rule
change. The e-mail also implies that the EPA requested the Georgia EPD to
respond to a question or conduct a review, but no documentation was provided
to explain why the Georgia EPD sent the e-mail to the EPA.
On December 15, 2005, the EPA filed Docket No. 05-10375-GG in the United
States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, providing much more
information about the EPA's motivation for the proposed rule change. The
Case is titled:
GLYNN ENVIRONMENTAL COALITION, INC., Petitioner, vs.
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, Respondent,
HERCULES INCORPORATED and ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION DIVISION, DEP’T OF
NATURAL RESOURCES, STATE OF GEORGIA, Intervenors.
JOINT MOTION TO STAY PENDING FINAL ACTION ON AN EPA PROPOSED RULE
THAT COULD MOOT THE ISSUES RAISED IN THIS PETITION
The reasons cited by the EPA for the proposed rule change, as presented
to the 11th Circuit of Appeals were:
A. "... Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and Intervenor
Environmental Protection Division, Department of Natural Resources, State of
Georgia ("EPD"), hereby move this Court for a stay until February 27, 2006
of all proceedings in the above matter, including oral argument, which is
currently scheduled for January 27, 2006."
Clearly, first and foremost, it was the EPA's intent to delay oral
arguments that were scheduled for January 27, 2006, at which the GEC would
seek relief from hazardous air pollutants under Georgia Air Quality Control
Rule 391-3-1-.02(2)(a)1. The Federal Register failed to mention that the EPA
was proposing the rule to stay a case that was due to be heard by the court
on January 27, 2006.
B. "On November 29, 2005, EPA proposed a correction to the Georgia State
Implementation Plan (SIP) that, if finalized as proposed, would moot this
The second EPA goal was to moot the GEC case, and frustrate our efforts to
obtain relief from unhealthy levels air pollutants. The Federal Register
failed to mention that the EPA wanted to prevent a community from seeking
resolution to decades of unhealthy toxic air releases.
C. "Depending on the number and nature of comments received, EPA anticipates
taking final action on the proposed rule by February 27, 2006."
The third goal of the EPA is to "fast track" the proposed rule change, most
likely to discourage public participation in the decision-making process.
D. "Staying these proceedings until final action has been taken on the
proposed rule would promote judicial economy and avoid unnecessary
The fourth goal of the EPA is to save money. Heaven forbid that the EPA has
to hear the pleas for relief from unhealthy toxic air pollution from the
poor and predominantly minority community down in Brunswick, Georgia. It is
much easier to just eliminate the law, let the people continue to suffer,
and save the EPA's money.
In the Federal Register, the EPA contends, "This proposed action merely
proposes to remove an erroneously approved State rule from the SIP... ." A
"reasonable person" could easily find that the EPA blatantly misrepresented
the purpose of the proposed rule change. At a minimum, the EPA is misusing
their powers to propose rule changes in the Federal Register, and the case
might actually be that the information presented in the Federal Register is
Brunswick, Georgia, is 60% minority; 28% live below the poverty level, and
the EPA has listed Brunswick as an Environmental Justice community under
Executive Order 12898 - Environmental Justice. Executive Order 12898 sets
forth strategies the EPA should use in Environmental Justice communities.
The rule change is intended to circumvent agency responsibility to implement
strategies to address disproportionately high and adverse human health and
environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority
populations and low-income population in Brunswick, Georgia. The proposed
rule change works in direct opposition to the strategy of promoting
enforcement of all health and environmental statutes in an area with
minority populations and low-income populations, and is intended to
frustrate community efforts to end the release of unhealthy levels of
hazardous air pollutants.
Intent of the EPA is to circumvent Executive Order 13045--Protection of
Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks. The GEC has
petitioned the EPA to take action, and specifically to address our concerns
over impacts to our children’s health and ability to learn due to release of
hazardous air pollutants.
Children attending two elementary schools in the areas most impacted by the
air release of CAA Section 112 hazardous pollutants were tested. The average
first grade Intelligence Quotient (IQ) at the two schools were 87 and 89.
When the same children were tested in the fifth grade, IQs were found to
have risen. IQ does not change throughout life, which suggests that
environmental conditions could be a significant factor in the low IQ testing
scores observed. CAA Section 112 hazardous pollutants include potent central
nervous system toxicants and suppressants, many of which are released close
to Brunswick’s elementary schools with low first grade IQ scores, which
could reduce the ability to learn or influence test taking ability. Failure
to learn or suppressed learning potential during the first few years of
school can have significant impacts later in life. Brunswick’s schools have
a very high dropout rate, which could be attributable in part to
environmental conditions that damage or suppress learning ability and
potential during elementary school.
Economic potential of our community is harmed when significant numbers of
students do not receive at least a high school education. Critical to the
economic future of Brunswick are environmental conditions in schools that
foster and support learning potential. Seven schools are located in areas
with unhealthy levels of hazardous pollutants, and many of the schools are
located closer to emission sources than the State air monitoring station.
See the GEC's complete comments on the proposed rule change