March 02, 2020

Duckworth, Durbin Write to EPA Condemning New Proposed EtO Rule


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), co-founder of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus and member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) today wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raising concerns about its new proposed rule to reduce Hazardous Air Pollutants, including ethylene oxide, from the manufacturing sector. The public comment period on the proposed Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing: National Emission Standards is open until March 19th, 2020. In their letter, Duckworth and Durbin highlight the importance of this rule to communities facing public health issues stemming from EtO emissions and outline various problems with the rule, including industry exemptions and an inaccurate cancer risk assessment.

“EPA last issued standards for the MON NESHAP nearly seventeen years ago. Since then, the available science on the public health risk posed by these pollutants has matured, especially for children’s health, as has technology’s ability to mitigate emissions and monitor for pollution,” the Senators wrote. “It has also become clear how important it is for EPA to finally recognize and reduce the injustice of disproportionate toxic exposure based on race and income. That is why we believe that best available science and technology should be the foundation of this rule and why we are concerned this proposed rule fails to do enough to protect public health.”

If finalized as written, this proposed rule will  leave some communities at cancer risk levels as high as 200 to 300-in-1 million, which is two to three times EPA’s presumptive benchmark for ‘acceptable’ risk,” the Senators continued. “In our view, more must be done to protect public health because this approach will still leave some communities exposed to an intolerably high cancer risk. Failing to address this risk is inconsistent with the requirements of the Clean Air Act, which requires EPA to set limits to control all emitted hazardous air pollutants.”

U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also joined Duckworth and Durbin in sending this letter.

Duckworth co-founded the Environmental Justice Caucus in April of last year to raise awareness of the many environmental and pollution issues that have created public health challenges, which disproportionately impact low income communities and communities of color. The caucus seeks to help those communities advocate for themselves with the federal government by providing expertise and assistance, generating legislation and organizing hearings and events. Duckworth brought Illinois-based environmental justice advocate Celeste Flores as her guest to this year’s State of the Union. She also chaired a Climate Crisis Committee Hearing earlier this month on understanding and addressing the national security risks of climate change.

A full copy of the letter is available here.