Richard Moore,

Peggy Shepard,

Catherine Coleman
Flowers, Vice Chair

Carletta Tilousi,
Vice Chair

LaTricea Adams

Susana Almanza

Jade Begay

Maria Bel en Power

Dr. Robert Bullard

Tom Cormons

Jerome Foster II

Kim Havey

Angelo Logan

Maria Lopez-Nunez

Harold Mitchell

Dr. Rachel Morello-

Juan Parras

Michele Roberts

Ruth Santiago

Dr. Nicky Sheats

Viola Waghiyi

Dr. Kyle Whyte

Dr. Beverly Wright

Hli Xyooj

Miya Yoshaitani

August 16, 2022

The Honorable Brenda Mallory, Chair
Council on Environmental Quality
Executive Office of the President
Washington, DC 20500

RE: Air pollution emissions limits for Incinerators

Dear Chair Mallory:

Disproportionate amounts of pollution too often plague communities of color and
low-income communities1 (i.e., environmental justice communities) and are
implicated in health disparities in our country that are rooted in race and income.2

1.	Several studies have found locally unwanted land uses are disproportionately sited in
environmental justice communities, included among the most prominent are Toxic Wastes and
Race in the United States: A National Report on the Racial and Socioeconomic Characteristics of
Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites (New York: United Church of Christ Commission for
Racial Justice, 1987); Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation With Racial and
Economic Status of Surrounding Communities (Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office,
1983); Robert D. Bullard et al., Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987-2007: Grassroots
Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States (Cleveland, OH: United Church
of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, 2007); and Paul Mohai & Robin Saha, Racial Inequality in
the Distribution of Hazardous Waste: A National-Level Reassessment, Social Problems 54, no. 3,
(2007): 343-370.

A number of studies have also found elevated levels of exposure to air pollution in
environmental justice communities. See C.W. Tessum et al., "PM2.5 Polluters Disproportionately
and Systemically Affect People of Color in the United States," Science Advances 7, no. 18 (2021)
eabf4491; C.W. Tessum et al., "Inequity in Consumption of Goods and Services Adds to Racial-
Ethnic Disparities in Air Pollution Exposure," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of
the U.S. 116, no. 13, (2019): 6001-6006; Michael Ash et al., Justice in the Air: Tracking Toxic
Pollution from America's Industries and Companies to Our States, Cities, and Neighborhoods,
(Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2009); Manuel
Pastor et al., 'The Air Is Always Cleaner on the Other Side: Race, Space, and Ambient Air Toxics
Exposures in California," Journal of Urban Affairs TJ, no. 2 (2005): 127-148; Douglas Houston et
al., "Structural Disparities of Urban Traffic in Southern California: Implications for Vehicle-Related
Air Pollution Exposure in Minority and High-Poverty Neighborhoods," Journal of Urban Affairs 26,
no. 5 (2004): 565-592; Manuel Pastor et al., "Waiting to Inhale: The Demographics of Toxic Air
Release Facilities in 21st-century California," Social Science Quarterly 85, no. 2 (2004): 420-440;
Michael Jarrett et al., "A GIS-Environmental Justice Analysis of Particulate Air Pollution in
Hamilton, Canada," Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 33, no. 6 (2001): 955-73;
D. R. Wernette and L A. Nieves, "Breathing Polluted Air; Minorities are Disproportionately
Exposed," EPA Journal 16 (1992).

2.	See the following articles for information on health disparities: National Center for Health
Statistics, Health, United States, 2012: With Special Feature on Emergency Care, NCHS (May
2013); Rachel Morello Frosch et al., "Understanding the Cumulative Impacts of Inequalities in
Environmental Health: Implications for Policy," Health Affairs 30, no. 5 (2011): 880-881; N. E.
Adler & D. H. Rehkopf, "U.S. Disparities in Health: Descriptions, Causes, and Mechanisms,"


Municipal solid waste incinerators frequently contribute to these elevated levels of pollution by
emitting significant amounts of air pollutants created by burning waste.3 Incineration is
particularly problematic from an environmental justice perspective because 79 percent of large
municipal waste incinerators in the Unites States, including many of the dirtiest and highest
emitting facilities, are located in environmental justice communities.4

Congress recognized that incineration was a problem and attempted to address it through the
adoption of Section 129 (Solid Waste Combustion) to the 1990 Clean Air Act, which required EPA
not only to set emissions limits for incinerators, but also to review and revise these limits on an
established timeline.5 EPA has never met the mandated timelines. The first emissions limits for
large incinerators were created four years late; its initial review was six years late; and the current
required review is 11 years behind schedule. Similarly, the required emissions limits revision and
review for small incinerators was due 16 years ago.6 The limits are supposed to be reviewed and
revised every five years.7 Compounding the detrimental impacts to communities that can be
attributed to extremely delayed revisions of health harming incinerator air pollutant limits is the
fact that current limits appear to have been set incorrectly since they are not pegged to actual
emissions.8 The courts have noted this mistake,9 and EPA has admitted that the emissions limits for
large incinerators were not up to standards required by Congress.10 However, this admission was
made 15 years ago, and corrective action has yet to be taken.11

What makes matters even more dire is the reality that most of today's incinerators were built in the
1980s, with only one constructed after 1995. They have therefore exceeded their 30-year useful
lives, yet they continue to operate with outdated technology and insufficient pollution control
devices.12 For example, many are not using more up-to-date technology such as baghouses13 and

Annual Review of Public Health 29 (2008): 235-252; William Dressier, "Race and Ethnicity in Public Health
Research: Models to Explain Health Disparities," Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (2005): 231-252; Roberta
Spalter-Roth et al., "Race, Ethnicity, and the Health of Americans," American Sociological Association Sydney S.
Spivack Program in Applied Social Research and Social Policy (July 2005); George Mensah et al., "State of
Disparities in Cardiovascular Health in the United States," Circulation 111, no. 10 (2005): 1233-1241.

3.	Ana Isabel Baptista et al., U.S. Municipal Solid Waste Incinerators: An Industry in Decline (The New School
Tishman Environment and Design Center, May 2019). https://www.no-burn.org/wp-
content/uploads/2021/03/CR GaiaReportFinal 05.21-l.pdf.

4.	Ibid.

5.	42 U.S. Code 7429 (1990).

6.	New Source Performance Standards for New Small Municipal Waste Combustion Units, 65 Fed. Reg. 76,350
(Dec. 6, 2000); Emission Guidelines for Existing Small Municipal Waste Combustion Units, 65 Fed. Reg. 76,378 (Dec.

6.	2000).

7.	Supra, note 5.

8.	Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority v. EPA, 358 F.3d 936, 953-54 (D.C. Cir. 2004); Cement Kiln
Recycling Coal. v. EPA, 255 F.3d 855, 861-66 (D.C. Cir. 2001).

9.	Ibid.

10.	EPA Motion for Voluntary Remand, Sierra Club v. EPA, No. 06-1250 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 9, 2007).

11.	Ibid.

12.	Baptista et al., supra note 3, pp. 8, 22; Ted Michaels and Karunya Krishnan, 2018 Directory of Waste-to-Energy
Facilities, (Arlington, VA: Energy Recovery Council), accessed July 28, 2022. http://energyrecovervcouncil.org/wp-

13.	Eastern Research Group Memo to EPA, "2000 National Inventory of Large Municipal Waste Combustion (MWC)
Units" (June 2002).


selective catalytic reduction,14 which would reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide
emissions, respectively.

The Biden Administration has said that environmental justice would be a centerpiece of EPA
activities.15 Expeditiously revising incinerator emissions standards would be a step forward in
fulfilling that promise. Congress ordered EPA to fix the problem of incinerator pollution by the
early 1990s, but 30 years later, environmental justice communities are still waiting for these
needed protections. The cost of delay in revising municipal waste incineration emissions standards
that would presumably lower dangerous emissions can be measured in illness and death in
environmental justice and other communities. Inaction and delay also perpetuate environmental
racism. In this instance, communities are not even requesting that new protective laws be created,
only that EPA's regulations meet the standards Congress required. If EPA requires more capacity to
fulfill this important obligation, then it must make this need known, and the Administration must
address it

The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council asks CEQ to direct EPA to revise
incinerator air pollution emissions limits as quickly as possible and move forward as if lives were at
stake, because they are.

cc: Members of the WHEJAC

Michael S. Regan, EPA Administrator

Jalonne White Newsome, Senior Director for Environmental Justice, CEQ
White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council
Victoria Robinson, Designated Federal Officer

14.	Ibid.; Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, Inc., Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility No. 2, accessed
July 28, 2022. https://www.swa.org/DocumentCenter/View/1607/REF2-lnfo-and-Specs/.

15.	EPA, Exec. Order No. 13985, 86 FR 7009 (April 2022), see E.0.13985 Equity Action Plan: U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, (April 2022). https://www.epa.gov/svstem/files/documents/2022-

04/epa equitvactionplan apri!2022 508.pdf/.


Richard Moore, WHEJAC Co-chair

Peggy M. Shepard, WHEJAC Co-chair