KRC urges adoption of STAR air toxics program by Metro Air Pollution Control Board

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KRC urges adoption of STAR air toxics program by Metro Air Pollution Control Board  

Members of the Metro Louisville Air Pollution Control Board, my name is Tom FitzGerald, and I am Director of the Kentucky Resources Council, a nonprofit legal aid provider on air, waste, water and other environmental quality and environmental health issues. For 21 years, KRC has advocated with and on behalf of residents of this community and across the state on air toxics issues ? from the BASF expansion to the hazardous waste incinerator proposed in Kosmosdale, from the former Louisville Barrel plant to the medwaste incinerator at Grade Lane. For 21 years and longer, residents of the western neighborhoods of this community and this county as a whole have lived with an untenable situation.

When the West County Community Task Force was impaneled, one of the plant representatives, in a candid moment characteristic of his honesty with the neighborhood representatives, reflected that ambient monitoring would be of value because, while he knew what his plant and their neighbors emitted, he did not know what a person standing on the corner of 41st and Bells Lane or Algonquin was breathing. Gathering that information was the first priority of that group, and their dedication and the advocacy of volunteers from and representing those neighborhoods, many of whom are here today, has led us to this time of decision.

The community representatives, in conjunction with local, state and federal agencies and U of L, undertook a stepwise, methodical approach to designing the collection and analysis of ambient air data, and it is a tribute to the quality of the data and their insistence that the data and methodology be peer-reviewed at each critical juncture, that the debate has been not whether the data is valid but rather how much risk should be posed to the public from stationary source toxic air pollutants.

You will soon be called on to vote on a package of regulations establishing the first credible risk-based air toxics program in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The regulations have been thoroughly vetted, in individual, small group, large group and formal hearing and discussion processes. In contrast with the one notice and 30 day comment period required by law, there have been numerous opportunities for all parties, including industry, to review, comment, inquire, and convey their concerns, and the agency has been attentive. Significant changes have been made to provide more clarity, to create more exit ramps for insignificant activities, to allow speciation of metals of concern provided that the data is of decent quality, and to allow a facility exceeding target risk levels to continue to operate provided that T-BAT is applied, so long as that facility is moving meaningfully towards the risk-based goals. The change in 5.21 clarifying that T-BAT must be implemented rather than merely considered, is an important improvement over the earlier version. Even as the language allowing adjustments in 2.9 is troublesome, the strengthening of 5.21 on balance will move this community forward more quickly.

Last year, then-Councilman Downard conveyed the sense of the Metro Council members who listened to the presentation by the District Director concerning the STAR program, when he remarked that “business as usual” in toxic air pollution was no longer good enough for this community, and that the STAR program was “critical” to this community. And he was right then.

It might be easier to do nothing – to wait for someone else to take the lead. But you won’t be able to hold your breath long enough to avoid further exposure to unhealthy air here, because help is not on the way. A meaningful federal program addressing residual risks from major hazardous air pollution sources is years behind schedule, by EPA’s admission, and is largely driven by litigation. An administration so captive at the policy level to the energy industries that it alters scientific recommendations to fit predetermined political decisions regarding emissions of greenhouse gases, is highly unlikely to move at a meaningful pace to promulgate the residual risk standards for those HAPs for which technology-based standards have been adopted.

And don’t expect that the state, which could not even muster the will to ban open burning of household garbage despite the fact that it is the single largest identified source of dioxin exposure, as well as a significant health risk to rural residents from other air toxics and particulates, will timely propose a program achieving meaningful risk-based reductions in air toxics from industrial sources.

It might be easier, if you didn’t know, as you do, that there are children throughout this community, legally incapable of giving informed consent, who are daily exposed to elevated levels of air toxics because we have for years done just the minimum required under federal law to control the use of the public’s air for industrial waste disposal.

They deserve better, and we all know it. The regulations are not perfect, but they are meaningful, they are workable, they provide the flexibility through modifications and variance procedures to respond to the varied sources and yet properly place the burden on the emission source to demonstrate that residual risk is negligible or that, at a bare minimum, the technology-based backdrop has been fully implemented and that continuous progress will be made. No amount of additional time will produce a consensus program, for there are those who like business as usual, and who are quite comfortable waiting for the residual risk standards to be completed sometime in the next decade or so.

There is a disagreement, a fundamental policy disagreement, a moral disagreement, as to what level of additional risk an unknowing, unconsenting public should be involuntarily exposed to, and it will come as no surprise to you that KRC believes that avoidable risk imposed on others without their knowledge, without their consent, is never reasonable. It is offensive in the extreme to equate consumer risks such as ingesting coffee and pickles with involuntarily-imposed, unconsenting, avoidable risks. And the risks of exposure to these air toxics is avoidable, and the costs should be folded into the products and not be paid with the health of downwind neighbors.

There are aspects of the regulations that we would change, but none that cannot be revisited as the core timelines of the program are adopted and reporting, monitoring and recordkeeping begin. It's time - past time rather, to step up and approve this program.

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By Kentucky Resources Council on 06/20/2005 5:32 PM
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