The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a state implementation plan (SIP) call action to 36 states directing them to correct specific startup, shutdown, and malfunction provisions in their SIPs to ensure they are fully consistent with the Clean Air Act (CAA).

The action comes in response to a petition for rulemaking filed by the Sierra Club. The group is seeking to close loopholes in many state plans that allow unlimited amounts of pollution to be released during periods of startup, shutdown, and malfunction. Coal-fired power plants, refineries, and chemical plants can exceed legal pollution limits by 10 times or more during these events, and state agencies have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the emissions, the Sierra Club says.

According to the EPA, recent court decisions have held that the CAA does not allow such exemptions. Specifically, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in a 2014 case brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council that affirmative defense provisions in the EPA’s own regulations cannot be applicable to violations of CAA requirements.

The 36 states subject to the SIP call action are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. The SIP submission deadline for each of the states is Nov. 22, 2016.

“For more than 40 years, some states have allowed refineries and power plants to spew soot and other pollution during startup and shutdown without consequence,” Darryl Malek-Wiley, senior organizing representative for the Sierra Club in New Orleans, La., said in a press release. “Today the EPA closed dangerous loopholes created by lax state rules and set a reasonable timeline for states to fix their policies in order to ensure our communities are protected.”

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)