Groups To Force EPA Action To Clean Up Atlanta's Foul Air

January 18, 2001

A coalition of environmental and civil rights groups today released notice of their intent to sue the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court for failing to create an adequate air pollution control plan for metro Atlanta by the 1999 deadline set in the Clean Air Act.

The groups yesterday filed a separate lawsuit challenging EPA’s failure to enforce additional air pollution cleanup measures for the Atlanta region by classifying it as an area with “severe” ozone pollution. In 1999, the Atlanta region had the highest number of unhealthy days in the decade, with 22 days above the existing health standard for ozone air pollution. The coalition is demanding EPA act to protect public health as required by law.

“Federal and state authorities are pretending they are getting their job done in Atlanta, but they are years behind in cleaning up Atlanta’s foul air. Their failure exposes residents to dangerous levels of air pollution, exacerbates asthma, and sends thousands of kids to the hospital each year. It’s time to insist public officials enforce the law to ensure clean air for Atlanta,” said Environmental Defense transportation director Michael Replogle.

Environmental Defense, the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, and Georgia Sierra Club joined in the notice of the intent to sue.

In response to a lawsuit brought by Environmental Defense and other groups, in May 2000 EPA imposed strict time limits for many of the nation’s most polluted urban areas to assure clean air plans would protect public health and control harmful smog. If states fail to create adequate air pollution cleanup plans by deadlines set in the Clean Air Act, EPA becomes responsible for creating its own smog control plans for these areas. “Many other areas have put plans in place to clean up the air. It’s time for EPA to enforce the deadlines in Atlanta to implement stronger pollution controls,” said Replogle.

In Atlanta, where run-away sprawl development has resulted in the country’s longest daily driving distances per person, more ozone pollution comes from motor vehicle emissions than any other source. Smog air pollution damages lung tissue, reduces lung function, and makes the lungs susceptible to other irritants, harming healthy adults and children. It is estimated that during the summer of 1997 smog pollution was responsible for over 50,000 respiratory-related hospital admissions, over 150,000 emergency room visits, and over 6 million asthma attacks in the eastern United States.