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Clearing the air

Sierra Club vs. EPA part XXXVII

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Though the mild weather we had this summer made it easy for some of us to forget about Atlanta's pollution problems, the clean air warriors of the Sierra Club still think something stinks.

On Sept. 19, the national Sierra Club sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a permit the state Environmental Protection Division issued to a Caldwell Tank Alliance plant in Newnan.

The lawsuit is a first step in overturning a state permit that gives Caldwell the upper hand over Georgia citizens.

Caldwell's permit allows it to spew 50 tons of volatile organic compounds and more than 10 other hazardous air pollutants into the air each year. While the permit requires Caldwell to monitor its emissions, it doesn't require the company to report its results to the public, the EPD or anybody else.

The permit "allows Caldwell to self police but they don't have to report the results of that self policing," says Robert Ukeiley, attorney with the Georgia Center For Law in the Public Interest, which filed the lawsuit for the Sierra Club.

The EPD permit also excludes non-profit groups, like the Sierra Club, from being able to make sure Caldwell complies with limits.

And the permit fails to mention that under the Clean Air Act, the public is allowed to enforce the permit through petitions and appeals.

Ukeiley filed the lawsuit after the EPA failed to rule on the Sierra Club petition that asked for review of the state permit. He claims the EPA failed to act within a 60-day time period as, he says, is required by law.

But EPA spokesman Carl Terry says, "We feel that there is no time limit. We're under the opinion that there is no 60-day time limit and the original petition [to rule on the EPD permit] is still under review."

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