EPA's decision, however, comes in the face of dozens of exceedances of the national standards in the southern portion of the valley. EPA previously announced that it could ignore these bad air days under the Clean Air Act, a decision that is currently being challenged in federal court.
EPA first proposed to sweep the valley's dust problems under the rug back in the summer of 2006, when it made an initial finding that the valley had attained the national standard for particulate matter so long as dangerous levels of pollution recorded by certain air quality monitors were ignored.
"EPA's announcement today is a farce," said Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort. "Valley residents know they are breathing unhealthy air, they can see it. Yet EPA and the district are patting each other on the back for a job well done."
Kevin Hall from the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club added, "We know there's a problem. Controls on agriculture are available to prevent these problems. This decision today is ludicrous and is yet another example of the Bush administration protecting industry at the expense of the public."
"When I stop seeing valley residents in community clinics and emergency rooms gasping for breath, then I'll pop the champagne," says respiratory therapist and Fresno resident Kevin Hamilton. "Until then, we'll see EPA in court."
For nearly a decade, Earthjustice has represented community, environmental, and medical groups in litigation seeking full enforcement of the federal Clean Air Act in the San Joaquin Valley. The fight continues.
Paul Cort, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6725
Kevin Hall, Sierra Club – Fresno, (559) 224-1842
Kevin Hamilton, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air – Fresno, (559) 288-5244