A Democrat bill being introduced Wednesday would give the EPA up to four months to require monitoring of ethylene oxide and other cancer-causing toxic air pollutants at the fencelines of chemical manufacturing plants.
The Public Health Air Quality Act of 2020, sponsored by Democrats Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.), would require the Environmental Protection Agency to take immediate action to monitor toxic air pollutants at facilities they say are “contributing to high local cancer rates and other health threats from dangerous pollutants.”
The legislation seeks to ensure that chemical, petrochemical, and other sources of fugitive toxic air pollution comply with federal air pollution limits “so that communities never again have to wonder what is in their air,” according to an advance copy of the release obtained by Bloomberg Law.
Janet McCabe, a former acting administrator for air and radiation under Obama EPA, said the bill’s sponsors are recognizing that air quality is a local issue. She said the current network of monitors is more focused on regional pollution caused by ground-level ozone.
“We don’t have comprehensive monitoring network for toxic air pollutants from these kinds of facilities,” McCabe said. “I think it is a good thing for legislation to recognize that. But there needs to be recognition that monitoring costs money whether it is done by EPA or EPA and states.”
McCabe, who is now director of the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute, said the bill might have difficulty advancing in either chamber of Congress. But the measure “definitely starts the conversation about monitoring toxic pollution,” she said.