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Know the West

State loopholes upset Clean Air Act

  Six Western states are among those accused of shortchanging public health by ignoring certain hazardous chemical emissions from power plants. A new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project reveals that the majority of state regulatory agencies overlook power plant "upset" emissions that exceed federal pollution limits.

Gaming the System: How the Off-the-Books Industrial Upset Emissions Cheat the Public Out of Clean Air explains that upsets — unpredictable discharges that occur during periods of malfunction, startup, shutdown or maintenance of machinery — sometimes exceed plants’ total annual reported emissions.

But most states will not regularly include upset emissions in pollution inventories, and do not consider them violations of air pollution regulations, the report says. Among the 29 states with legal loopholes that excuse such emissions from regulation — and grant companies exemptions from upset penalties — are California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The report, along with other information regarding upsets at refineries nationwide, can be found at www.environmentalintegrity.org.