Environmental Groups Say EPA Has Not Fulfilled Clean Air Act Duties Regarding Flares

A group of environmental organizations, including the Environmental Integrity Project and the Clean Air Council, filed a complaint on Thursday in the District of Columbia District Court against Andrew Wheeler, Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging that he has not fulfilled his duties to control flares, and specifically has not updated the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). The plaintiffs asked the court to compel the EPA, through the defendant, to fulfill the “long-delayed nondiscretionary duties and review the general control device requirements for flares.” 

Flares are reportedly devices used for pollution control, they “destroy organic pollutants in waste gases” using combustion. The cited standards, which are supposed to be reviewed by the EPA, establish rules and practices to maximize their efficiency.  

The plaintiffs said their allegations were based on a review of public records, and that it was “apparent” that the EPA had not done the required review of NSPS and NESHAP flare requirements “since their initial promulgation,” in 1986 and 1994 respectively. They claimed that studies, along with EPA research, show that monitoring of the systems is “poor or infrequent” and often gasses are vented less efficiently or too much steam is added, increasing the pollution emissions from the process. 

Thursday’s complaint said operators rely on the published requirements from the NSPS and NESHAP to reach the maximum efficiency and that the EPA and Wheeler need to be required to update the standards, so that operators can use the flares to the best efficiency and release less hazardous gasses into the air. 

The plaintiffs, including Environmental Integrity Project, Clean Air Council, Air Alliance Houston, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthworks, Environment America, Environment Texas, Hoosier Environmental Council, PennEnvironment, and Texas Campaign for the Environment, are represented by Adam Kron with the Environmental Integrity Project

This suit comes as at least two other environmental lawsuits are being heard in the Northern District of California alleging that the EPA and its administrator are not fulfilling other duties to keep the air clean, specifically for not protecting people from sulfur oxides and for not creating or enforcing Implementation Plans