For Immediate Release, July 1, 2021


Julie Teel Simmonds, (619) 990-2999,

Lawsuit Challenges Federal Industrial Stormwater Permit’s Failure to Control U.S. Plastic Pollution, Protect Endangered Species

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Environmental Protection Agency and federal wildlife agencies today over their approval of a Clean Water Act general permit covering stormwater discharges for thousands of industrial facilities across the country.

Today’s lawsuit faults the federal permit’s failure to protect the aquatic environment, public health, endangered and threatened species, and critical habitat from plastic and other forms of pollution discharged through industrial stormwater.

“This permit lets industrial polluters keep releasing plastic and other pollutants into our waterways,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, an attorney in the Center’s Oceans program. “Rather that protecting wildlife and public health, the EPA just copied and pasted from its 2015 permit and ignored our recommendations. We’re suing to force federal officials to consider mounting evidence that plastics facilities harm essential habitats and frontline communities.”

The permit covers stormwater discharges to U.S. waters from industrial facilities in 30 categories, including chemical and allied products manufacturing, rubber and miscellaneous plastic products, and many others.

Plastic production, transport and use in industrial facilities results in the loss of trillions of plastic pellets to the environment every year. These plastic pellets are often spilled in outdoor areas, picked up in stormwater runoff and discharged to surface waters. Once in the environment, plastic pellets are persistent and can be transported long distances from their source in flowing surface waters such as streams, rivers and oceans.

This plastic is ingested by fish, sea turtles, birds and marine mammals and becomes embedded in sediments and plant matter. It also introduces toxic plastic additives to the environment, such as Bisphenol-A and nonylphenol, and accumulates other toxic chemicals on pellet surfaces, such as PCBs and dioxin, which end up in the aquatic food chain.

Among the several hundred species covered by the federal permit are numerous threatened and endangered whales, sea turtles, birds and fish.

Tough controls are urgently needed in light of the current boom in U.S. plastic production, the Center says. According to the American Chemistry Council, the plastics and chemical industry is investing more than $209 billion in the United States for an estimated 349 projects, including new facilities and expansions. The facilities are designed to convert an oversupply of fracked gas into petrochemical and plastic products. These new plastics are used to manufacture a variety of products, with single-use items accounting for approximately 40% of plastic use.

Today’s lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.