These concerned citizens were in Washington to talk to the Obama administration about updates to the so-called "startup, shutdown, malfunction" rule for industrial facilities, including coal plants and refineries. Existing loopholes in many states allow big polluters to skirt responsibility for huge blasts of toxic emissions that sometimes happen when a facility is starting up, shutting down, or experiencing a malfunction. For polluters that put the bottom line before the well-being of neighboring communities, this loophole provides a golden opportunity to release large amounts of toxic pollution without accountability.
While industry cashes in by abusing this regulatory exemption, it is low-income families and communities of color living next door to these coal plants, refineries, and other facilities that feel the brunt of the pollution. Earlier this year, the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency put over 30 states on notice that they needed to update their standards for these pollution events. These loopholes were written into state reguations and are a relic of the past, dating back to when the EPA was first established and the agency was getting its regulatory sea legs. Now, big polluters are taking advantage of these loopholes, and the EPA is finally stepping up to update these protections and safeguard the health of nearby families.