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SIERRA CLUB WINS COURT VICTORY SETTING ASIDE RULE ALLOWING IMPORT OF DEADLY CHEMICAL FOR INCINERATION
This is something that many of you should be interested in. This email
was sent to me by Dr. Neil Carman.
Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
For Legal Questions:
Tuesday, July 8, 1997
Howard Fox, SCLDF (Washington, DC), 202-667-4500
For Scientific & Political Questions:
Neil Carman, Sierra Club
Charlie Cray, Greenpeace (Chicago), 312-563-6060
Rick Hind, Greenpeace (Washington, D.C.), 202-462-1177
Jane Williams, California Communities Against Toxics, pager
SIERRA CLUB WINS COURT VICTORY SETTING ASIDE RULE ALLOWING IMPORT
OF DEADLY CHEMICAL FOR INCINERATION
AUSTIN, July 8—The Sierra Club won a major legal victory July 7
when a three judge panel with the United States Court of Appeals for
the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco struck down an import rule issued
March 18, 1996 by the federal Environmental Protection Agency that
allowed the importation of the dangerous chemicals PCBs—polychlorinated
biphenyls—to the United States for incineration.
The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (an independent organization)
filed a petition on March 28, 1996 asking the court to set aside the
new regulation on the grounds that it violated a 1976 law under the
Toxic Substances Control Act passed by Congress.
Chief Judge Proctor Hug, Jr. ruled that ... “this case involves the
authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to
promulgate a final rule which allows for the importation of
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the United States for
purposes of disposal. The principal issue in this case is whether
EPA’s rule allowing importation of PCBs for disposal violates the
statutory prohibitions concerning PCBs contained in section
6(e)(3)(A)(i) of the Toxic Substances control Act (TCSA),
15 U.S.C. SS 2601-2618 (1982 & Supp. 1987). We hold ... that
the rule violates the statute.” Joining Chief Judge Hug in the
unanimous ruling were Circuit Judges Thomas M. Reavley and Edward Leavy.
The position of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and many other
organizations and scientists is that incineration is the most dangerous
possible way to dispose of PCBs because the incineration process
produces dioxins and furans, the most toxic chemicals known.
Organizations in Mexico and Canada have registered their opposition to
PCB incineration—whether in their own countries or abroad—with their
“Burning PCBs is dangerous and unnecessary no matter where you do it.
There is no justice in polluting communities and the global environment
with dioxin,” said Charlie Cray of Greenpeace.
Neil Carman of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter emphasized, “Safer
alternatives are becoming available that do not involve incineration and
release of dioxin. In fact there are at least five alternative disposal
technologies coming into the marketplace and some involve portable,
non-incineration PCB remediation technology for use anywhere in the U.S.
LaNell Anderson, a Sierra Club member and resident of Channelview,
Texas, near the Deer Park ncinerator, summed it all up: “This decision
makes me hopeful that justice will finally prevail.”
Both the Mexican and Canadian borders were opened in 1996 to allow PCB
importation for incineration in the US and now this practice will cease
very quickly. PCB imports were also expected from many other foreign
nations. Containment and safer disposal technologies will promote the
safest approach to PCB remediation.
Howard Fox of SCLDF argued the Sierra Club’s case in November. Several
intervenors also filed opinions siding with the EPA including
Environmental Technology Council, S.D. Myers, Inc., and Chemical Waste
FACT SHEET: IMPORTING PCBs FOR INCINERATION
°° Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a dangerous class of chemicals
that bioaccumulate in the body and cause a range of adverse health
effects including cancer, immune suppression, reproductive damage, birth
defects, and fetal death.
°° Prenatal exposures to even very low amounts of PCBs can result in
lower IQs, according to a study of 212 Michigan fifth graders who have
been studied since birth by scientists at Wayne State University in
Detroit. Mothers of the children had consumed contaminated fish from
Lake Michigan. Joseph L. Jacobson and Sandra W. Jacobson, “Intellectual
Impairment in Children Exposed to Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Utero,”
New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 335 No. 11, September 12, 1996,
°° PCBs accumulate in the environment and move toward the top of the
food chain, contaminating fish, birds, and mammals, including humans.
°° PCBs are the only chemical that Congress singled out for phase-out
under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.
°° TSCA requires that “no person many manufacture any polychlorinated
biphenyl after two years after January 1, 1997.” “Manufacture” is
defined to include “import into the customs territory of the
°° Commercial hazardous waste incinerators fully permitted under TSCA
to burn PCBs are located at:
Deer Park, Texas (Rollins, Inc.)
Port Arthur, Texas (Chemical Waste Management)
West Chester, Pennsylvania (Weston, Inc.)
Coffeyville, Kansas (Aptus, Inc.)
Aragonite, Utah (Aptus, Inc.)
°° PCBs, when incinerated, release dioxin (2,3,7,8 -
tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, or TCDD) and dioxin-like chemicals, the
most toxic chemicals known. A small amount of unburned PCBs also
°° Like PCBs, dioxins cause a range of adverse health effects and
°° The EPA’s recent Dioxin Reassessment indicates that dioxin levels in
the bodies and breast milk of the average American are already at levels
°° Dioxin (2,3,7,8 TCDD) is known to cause cancer at 5 parts per
trillion in lab rats, and the EPA has known this fact since at least
1979 according to court records.
°° Dioxin (TCDD) was recently classified as a known human carcinogen by
a panel of 25 scientists convened by the International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC) during a February 1997 meeting at Lyon,
France. The IARC was established in 1965 by the World Health
Organization. Dioxin (TCDD) is 300,000 times more potent than DDT,
which was banned in 1972. The IARC panel took into account
1) “that TCDD causes cancer in multiple organs in experimental
2) “that it has been shown to act in animals by a
mechanism that is likely also to operate in humans;” and 3) “that
tissue concentrations of TCDD are similar both in heavily exposed human
populations in which an increased overall cancer risk was observed and
in rats exposed to carcinogenic doses.”
°° Several alternative methods of PCB disposal that do not produce
dioxins are under active development and are showing promise.