P. O. Box 2443
For Immediate Release
Brunswick, GA – The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) and Center for a Sustainable Coast have filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to object to Hercules, Inc. Title V Operating permit under the Clean Air Act. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Georgia on January 26, 2004 by the Plaintiffs’ legal counsel, the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF), located in Tallahassee, Florida.
"Our patience in waiting for the EPA to make a decision finally ran out," said Scott Randolph, the lead attorney handling the case at LEAF. "Although we followed the strict timelines for filing comments and then a Petition for Objection in January 2003, the EPA has blatantly decided the law doesn’t apply to them."
The groups filed a petition with the U.S. EPA on January 20, 2003, requesting that EPA object to the Hercules, Inc.’s Title V operating permit issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD). This permit covers all of Hercules’s emissions. Although the Clean Air Act requires the U.S. EPA to either deny the petition or object to the permit within 60 days, EPA never responded to the petition. A Title V operating permit must be modified if the EPA objects to the permit.
"We have been more than patient with the EPA," said Daniel Parshley, with GEC. "We waited more than 10 extra months for a decision that should have been made back in March 2003."
GEC and the Center for a Sustainable Coast are asking EPA to object to the permit because the Georgia EPD failed to consider the cumulative impact of the various hazardous air pollutants emitted by Hercules on public health, as well as the combination of the hazardous air pollutants emitted by other major facilities in the area such as the Georgia-Pacific Pulp and Paper Mill. The state rules require the agency to consider these impacts when setting emission standards.
"EPD has stated that they do not consider cumulative impacts from either numerous air pollutants or other facilities when they make permitting decisions," said Scott Randolph. "This is a violation of the law to which EPA should object."
Air monitoring data published by EPD shows extremely high levels of several hazardous pollutants, including acetaldehyde, acrolein, formaldehyde, chromium and benzene that alone pose a threat to public health, such as elevated cancer risks, respiratory illnesses and asthma rates. Georgia-Pacific and Hercules emitted more than 2.5 million pounds of hazardous air pollutants in 2001, the last year for which data is available.
"Coastal Georgia’s natural resources are vital to our nature-based economy and quality of life. To put our citizens, community, and environment at risk under these circumstances is simply unacceptable and irresponsible. EPA and EPD must be held accountable to their legal obligations to protect the public," explained David Kyler, executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast.
Not only does the monitoring data show that the levels of these air pollutants alone pose significant health risks, but EPD has not even bothered to determine the cumulative impact. In addition, there is no monitoring data for several major hazardous air pollutants that Hercules, Inc. and Georgia-Pacific emit—such as the 212,000 pounds of ammonia, 14,000 pounds of cresol, 36,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid, 1,357,465 pounds of methanol and 98,000 pounds of sulfuric acid emitted by Georgia-Pacific and the 650,000 pounds of methyl isobutyl ketone emitted by Hercules, Inc. in 2000. There also is little air monitoring data for the 26,306,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide released into Glynn County’s air in 1999, which ranked the county in the top 10% for sulfur dioxide emission in the U.S.
Hercules, Inc. and Georgia-Pacific sit less than five miles from each other, with seven public schools and a public hospital located between them.
"The EPA had failed to fulfill its duty to the citizens of Brunswick to stop these facilities from emitting hazardous air pollutants at levels that threaten public health," said Daniel Parshley. "Clean air is essential for the health of Brunswick’s citizens and the health of Brunswick’s economy. Polluted air results in increased illness and disease, while at the same time lowering the quality of life and the prospect of attracting new clean industry and tourism."
In the meantime, the law allows Hercules and Georgia-Pacific to continue emitting these pollutants.
LEAF is a public interest environmental organization dedicated to protecting
people’s health and natural resources from pollution.