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Secret EPA “watch list” of air polluters found by NPR

National Public Radio (NPR) and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) have discovered a secret EPA “watch list” that shows that hundreds of the worst industrial air polluters in the U.S. violate toxic air emissions standards with little or no action by state agencies, sometimes for decades. NPR reported that around 1,600 power plant and other industrial facilities required urgent action to reduce emissions and almost 300 were called “high priority violators” of the Clean Air Act for more than 10 years.

If no action is taken within nine months with regard to a facility that is noted as needing urgent action, the facility is moved to a “watch list” that now includes over 450 plants. The secret nature of the list was apparently to prevent facilities from learning that they were the subjects of criminal investigations, according to a former EPA official. However, some of the plants on the list are not being investigated, and others wind up on the list for bureaucratic reasons unrelated to the seriousness of their violations. CPI used these data to construct its “Poisoned Places” report, which describes communities in the U.S. with increased incidence of cancers and other illnesses believed to be related to high levels of toxic substances released by industrial plants.

NPR and CPI received watch lists from July and September 2011 after submitting Freedom of information Act requests. The L.A. Times published the group of California companies on the list, shown below. In notes that are included on the lists, several of the companies explain why they do not belong on the list or how they wound up on the list as the result of administrative error.

Aera Energy, San Ardo (Monterey County).
Big West of CA, LLC, Bakersfield.
Blue Lake Power, Blue Lake.
CA Portland Cement Co., Mojave.
Cold Canyon Landfill, San Luis Obispo.
ConocoPhillips Santa Maria Refinery, Arroyo Grande.
ConocoPhillips SF Refinery (Phillips 66), Rodeo.
E&J Gallo Winery and Brandy, Modesto.
Forward Inc. Landfill, Manteca.
Red-Scotia, LLA (Town of Scotia Co.), Scotia.
Shell Oil Products U.S., Martinez Refinery, Martinez.
Tamco, Rancho Cucamonga.
Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co., Martinez.
TXI Riverside Cement, Oro Grande.
Valero Refining Company, California, Benicia.

-Bill at

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