Conservation groups today blasted a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do nothing to strengthen clean air standards for nitrogen and sulfur oxides (NOx and SOx), despite warnings from its staff and science advisors that stronger standards are needed to limit damaging acid deposition from these pollutants.
Acid residue from NOx and SOx ends up in rivers, lakes and forests, where it can severely harm wildlife. In comments filed today, Earthjustice said the proposal violates the Clean Air Act by allowing pollution levels that the EPA itself says are unsafe for fish and other aquatic life. The comments were filed on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association, Appalachian Mountain Club, Sierra Club and the Clean Air Council.
Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide are pollutants spewed out by coal fired power plants, factories, diesel engines, and other sources. Although the EPA and its science advisers agree that current standards for these pollutants are too weak, the EPA proposal is to provide no more protection than what is already in place.
“This do-nothing proposal is illegal and irresponsible,” said David Baron, Earthjustice attorney. “Acid residue from these pollutants can kill fish and decimate rivers and lakes. In the Adirondacks, trout are missing from 44 percent of evaluated lakes due to acidification. In the Shenandoah area, 85 percent of streams have chronic acidity impacting fisheries. Yet the EPA is proposing to continue business as usual. This deplorably weak proposal is profoundly disappointing from an administration that says it will base its decisions on the best science. We expect more from an agency charged with protecting our public health and environment.”
The National Park Service has also urged EPA to adopt new, much more protective standards to prevent acid damage from these pollutants.