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August 25, 2012
Investors Call on EPA to Strengthen PVC Regulations
    by Robert Kropp

Arguing that proposed regulations do not go far enough to protect the health of communities, the investors request that national emission standards for the PVC industry provide better protection from cancer-causing pollutants.


Sustainable investors and other advocates for environmental justice are not letting the US Court of Appeals in Washington keep them from reminding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its responsibility to the nation's health.

This week, the Court struck down the Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (C-SAP), despite a dissenting opinion that called the decision "a trampling on this court's precedent on which the Environmental Protection Agency…was entitled to rely."

Last year, the same court ruled against a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule that would have allowed institutional investors to have their nominees for boards of directors included in corporate proxy materials. If the rule had been allowed to stand, it is likely that investors would have used it to nominate directors with environmental expertise at companies like Chevron, which is currently mired in an $18 billion lawsuit due to extensive environmental damage from its operations in Ecuador.

Nevertheless, 17 investors with almost $10 billion in assets under management wrote to the EPA earlier this month, requesting that it strengthen national emission standards for the Polyvinyl Chloride and Copolymers (PVC) industry.

"The new rules will not sufficiently reduce the toxic burden allowed by PVC facilities operating in close proximity to" communities in Louisiana and Texas, the letter stated. Furthermore, in setting its proposed rules, "EPA did not consider nor provide adequate protection for public health and the impacts on environmental justice communities where people of color are disproportionately overburdened with toxic pollution."

Since 2009, the investors, led by Trillium Asset Management, have engaged with corporations with operations near Mossville, LA. However, despite improved disclosure of community engagement policies, the companies have not gone "beyond regulatory compliance to reduce hazardous air pollutants in Mossville," according to the investors.

The investors stated their support for a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson by 60 environmental health and justice groups in July, which pointed out that "PVC facilities release toxic chemicals that are especially harmful to human health including dioxins and vinyl chloride, which are known to cause cancer."

"As long term investors of diversified portfolios we believe strong and consistent protections of public health and welfare are essential to long term economic growth, and in turn the prospects of companies in our portfolios," said Susan Baker of Trillium.

And Sister Judy Byron of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment (NWCRI) said, "Exposing communities to chemicals that cause sickness and cancer is not the way to keep our economy strong. These facilities have more than enough money to install protections that would limit the amount of poison people breathe."

 

 
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