Earthjustice today is asking a federal appeals court to set an immediate deadline for the Obama Administration to decide whether to strengthen clean air standards for ozone, the main component of urban smog. The request—made on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, and Appalachian Mountain Club—comes after the Obama Administration announced its fourth delay of action on the standards, which are required by the Clean Air Act to protect public health and the environment from dirty air. The U.S. EPA’s science advisors and the nation’s leading medical organizations have repeatedly said that stronger standards are needed to save lives and prevent sickness from ozone pollution.
“Delaying stronger standards means more death and suffering from dangerous smog pollution,” said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. “Millions of Americans are being denied the health protection that doctors say they need. The President needs to stop stalling and start protecting people’s lungs as the law requires.”
Ozone air pollution causes premature death, asthma attacks and other breathing problems, often sending people to emergency rooms and hospitals due to lung distress. Children and senior citizens are at special risk. According to EPA estimates, stronger ozone standards could annually save up to12,000 lives, prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks and hospital visits, and prevent hundreds of thousands of lost school and work days.
The current ozone standards, adopted by the Bush administration in 2008, were significantly weaker than recommended by lung doctors and EPA’s science advisors. Earthjustice sued to challenge these standards, but the case was put on hold when the Obama Administration said it would reconsider the standards. EPA proposed to strengthen the standards in January 2010, but has repeatedly delayed a final decision, most recently missing a July 29 completion date that it had previously told the court it was “confident” of meeting. Although the ozone standards have been sitting at the Office of Management and Budget since July 11, the administration will not say when it will make a final decision.
EPA previously said it needed more time only to seek additional input from its science advisers. That advice was given on March 30, when the scientists reaffirmed their prior advice that the standards needed to be strengthened. “The agency has run out of excuses for any more stalling on this decision,” the Earthjustice motion says.