EDF, Allies Sue EPA over Failure to Implement Smog Standard, Protect the Health of 100 Million Americans

December 4, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – December 4, 2017) A broad coalition of public health, environmental, and community groups – including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – filed a lawsuit against Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt today to compel him to carry out his duties under the law and implement America’s health-protective smog standard.

“Smog is a dangerous pollutant that causes or exacerbates a wide array of serious heart and lung diseases,” said EDF Senior Attorney Graham McCahan. “EPA is failing to protect more than 100 million Americans from smog. For the EPA Administrator to blatantly ignore that responsibility is legally unacceptable and morally unconscionable. American families and communities deserve cleaner, safer air to breathe.”

The Clean Air act requires EPA to establish health-based standards to limit the amount of ground-level ozone – more commonly known as smog – in the air. Areas with smog levels that violate the health-based standards must clean up their air, and areas whose pollution contributes to poor air quality in downwind communities must reduce that pollution.

EPA strengthened America’s smog standard in 2015 based on an extensive scientific record showing that earlier standards were inadequate to protect public health and welfare. EPA estimates that when communities meet the 2015 smog standard it will save hundreds of lives each year, prevent 230,000 asthma attacks in children each year, and prevent 160,000 missed school days for kids each year.

EPA faced a legal deadline of October 1, 2017, to identify the areas that have unhealthy pollution levels and must clean up their air because they violate the 2015 smog standard – formally known as finalizing the initial area designations.

In June 2017, Administrator Pruitt announced that he intended to delay finalizing the initial area designations. EPA later withdrew its plan to delay and reinstated the October 1, 2017 deadline in response to a legal challenge filed by EDF, numerous state Attorneys General, and others.

The October 1 deadline has now passed, however, and EPA has not acted. So today the coalition of health, community and environmental groups filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California:

“All areas of the country are legally entitled to healthy, clean air. Not all areas have it … More than 100 million of the roughly 323 million people in the United States live in the hundreds of counties that remain as of this date without designations under the 2015 standards.” (Complaint, pages 1 and 11)

The American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society, Appalachian Mountain Club, Earthjustice, Environmental Law & Policy Center, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and West Harlem Environmental Action joined EDF in filing today’s lawsuit. Collectively, the groups represent more than two million Americans in all 50 states and Washington D.C.

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