Carper Statement on EPA “Once-in, Always-in” Air Toxics Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, issued a statement on EPA’s proposal to permanently change its longstanding policy requiring the nation’s major sources of hazardous air pollution to maintain maximum achievable control technology (MACT) throughout the lifetime of their operation, known as “once-in-always-in.” 

The agency abruptly reversed the policy in January 2018 without fully considering the potentially devastating health effects of such a policy change.  For 24 years, the “once in, always in” policy has served as a critical backstop to ensure air toxic reductions from our country’s largest and dirtiest sources are permanent. According to a 2017 EPA fact sheet, the air toxics MACT program with the “once in, always in” policy had resulted in the elimination of 1.7 million tons of hazardous air pollution.

“Just days after dismantling a major rule that would fight climate change and cut down on toxic air emissions, it appears Assistant Administrator Wehrum had one more public health rollback to release on his way out the door,” said Senator Carper. “Prior to Mr. Wehrum’s arrival at EPA, the ‘once-in, always in’ interpretation of the Clean Air Act had been a crucial tool in limiting air toxic pollution from our nation’s biggest polluters in communities across the country for almost a quarter century. If finalized, this proposal would solidify the Trump Administration’s warped interpretation of the Clean Air Act and allow major air toxic polluters to turn off their pollution control technology. This action would lead to increased levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and other dangerous chemicals in the air we breathe. 

EPA originally announced this change through guidance in January 2018 without any public comment. I was told by then-Administrator Pruitt that the decision to change the ‘once in, always in’ guidance was a political one, not one based on any public health data. Since March of 2018,  I have repeatedly asked EPA to halt this change until the agency fully reviews its potential wide-ranging health consequences. EPA continues to ignore questions about the health effects of this policy change, and has instead charged full speed ahead in making this change permanent. EPA’s own analysis suggests that half of our nation’s toxic polluters may turn off their air toxic control technology in response to this action. Clearly, this is another example showing that EPA is more concerned about benefits to industry, rather than benefits to human health. This is clearly not what Congress intended and I will continue fighting against this rollback.”