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April 24,  2002


(SafetyAlerts) - The 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 pollution controls.

The case is captioned National Wildlife Federation v. EPA, No. 99-1452, and the decision was authored by Judges Sentelle, Henderson and Rogers.

Source: EPA

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