D.C. Circuit Upholds Most of Portland Cement MACT, Vacates “Unavoidable Malfunction” Defense


In a unanimous ruling issued April 18, the D.C. Circuit largely upheld EPA regulations governing emissions of toxic air pollutants from Portland cement plants, while vacating a provision that created an affirmative defense for “unavoidable” equipment malfunctions.

The regulations, issued in February 2013, set limits for emissions of particulate matter, mercury, hydrochloric acid, and hydrocarbons from Portland cement manufacturing facilities. 

In rejecting several arguments advanced by environmental organizations challenging the regulations, the court held that EPA reasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act to allow the Agency to consider compliance costs in setting “beyond-the-floor” MACT limits for toxic air pollutants.  The court also rejected the argument that Section 112(d)(7) of the Clean Air Act should be interpreted as an anti-backsliding provision and held that EPA acted reasonably in extending the compliance date for all pollutants covered by the regulations when it revised the standard for particulate matter in the 2013 rule.

However, the court concluded that the creation of an affirmative defense for “unavoidable” equipment malfunctions exceeded EPA’s statutory authority.

The lead case is Natural Resources Defense Counsel v. EPA, Case No. 10-1371.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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