April 24, 2002
DC CIRCUIT UPHOLDS WATER POLLUTION
LIMITATIONS FOR PULP AND PAPER MILLS
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously
affirmed updated Clean Water Act discharge limitations for pulp and paper
mills adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1998. The new
regulations will substantially reduce discharges of numerous toxic
pollutants, including dioxin, and will encourage mills to use the most
modern and effective pollution control technologies.
"Implementation of the standards upheld by the court today will assure that
American paper mills take advantage of the latest pollution control
technology, resulting in significant water quality improvements nationwide,"
said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's
Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The court's decision is a
strong reaffirmation of the strength of EPA's technical record and the
reasonableness of its approach in finding the right balance to clean up the
environment without imposing excessive costs on American industry."
Tracy Mehan, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water said, "Today's court
ruling is a big win for public health and the environment. The pulp and
paper mill rule will reduce dioxin discharges, protecting the health of
millions of American families who live near the mills. It will lead to the
cleanup of over 70 rivers and streams across the nation. Over time, this
rule will virtually eliminate fish advisories caused by dioxin discharges
from by the pulp and paper industry."
Pulp and paper mills have historically used large amounts of bleaching
chemicals, such as chlorine, as part of the paper production process, which
can lead to increased discharges of toxic pollutants, such as dioxin. The
standards upheld today are premised on the adoption of more modern
production processes by all mills nationwide. For example, to meet the new
standards, existing mills will no longer be able to use the most harmful
types of chlorine in the bleaching process, and new mills will need to
implement additional process changes that will bring about further pollution
reductions. EPA also adopted a Voluntary Advanced Technologies Incentive
Program, which offers various incentives to mills to adopt even more
The case is captioned National Wildlife Federation v. EPA, No. 99-1452, and
the decision was authored by Judges Sentelle, Henderson and Rogers.