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Long Overdue: EPA and Nitric Acid Plant Regulation

Long Overdue: EPA and Nitric Acid Plant Regulation

By Policy Integrity
June 23, 2011

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Filed under Environmental Health, Reports

Nitric acid plants emit dangerous air pollutants that cause illness and alter the climate. This report finds EPA long overdue on a regulatory revision and at risk of allowing major costs to be imposed on the American public.

Nitric acid factories—which mainly produce the ingredients for fertilizer—have escaped pollution control requirements based on contemporary science and technology. Despite a statutory requirement to review and revise related regulations every eight years, the rules governing these plants have not been updated in four decades.

During that time, the technology for cleaning up emissions has drastically changed, rendering the old rules outdated and insufficient. Life-saving technologies are now easier and cheaper but have not been put in place by most plants.

In the forty years since nitric acid plant regulations have been revised, new research has also shown greater harm from the pollutant than originally thought, which means greater benefits to cutting emissions. Savings like higher productivity, fewer sick days, and less risk for untimely death add up to significant benefits that are not currently being taken into account.