80 Texas Plants to be Impacted by EPA’s New Rule to Restrict Toxic Pollution

A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that will require chemical manufacturing plants to reduce toxic emissions that could cause people who live nearby to develop cancer will affect more than 200 plants across the country — 80 of which are located in the state of Texas.

On Tuesday, the EPA announced the new rule, which affects facilities that use hazardous chemicals to create pesticides, synthetic fabrics, paints, plastics and some other products that are made from petrochemicals.

About 40% of the plants that are affected are in Texas, many of which are on the Gulf Coast.

The EPA’s new rule hones in on six chemicals that are dangerous — vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, 1,3-butadiene, benzene, chloroprene and ethylene oxide. All of these chemicals have been proven to increase the risk of getting cancer and causing damage to the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems after someone has long-term exposure to them.

The EPA says that this new rule will remove about 6,000 tons of toxic pollutants from the air every year, and also reduce how many people have an elevated risk of getting cancer by 96% across the country.

Facilities that are subject to this requirement must install fence line air monitoring devices that constantly measure that concentration of specific chemicals at their property lines.

According to the American Lung Association’s President and CEO Harold Wimmer, these monitors “will help protect nearby communities by giving them more accurate information about the quality of the air they are breathing.”

Many studies show that the communities that are most affected are those of color.

Cynthia Palmer, who works as a senior analyst for petrochemicals for the environmental non-profit group Moms Clean Air Force, issued a statement recently. She said:

[The new rule is] deeply personal for me. My best friend grew up near nine of the chemical manufacturing facilities in Texas that will be covered in this new rulemaking. She died of cancer when her children were in preschool.”

She further wrote that this new rule is a step forward for overall environmental justice.

This new rule comes just one month after the agency approved another rule that will slash emissions of ethylene oxide from commercial sterilization facilities.

As a result of this new rule, the manufacture of the chemical will be significantly impacted, according to the Texas Chemistry Council’s president and CEO, Hector Rivero. He said in an email to The Texas Tribune that the chemical is important for products such as computer chips, electric cars and sterilizing medical products.

He added that the council will comply with the new EPA regulations, as will the more than 200 facilities in the chemical manufacturing industry that it represents. Still, he believes the analysis undertaken by the EPA was flawed scientifically.

He said:

“EPA’s reliance on outdated emissions data has led to a final rule based on inflated risks and speculative benefits.”