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Court Decision Leaves EPA Air Safeguard in Place

Dismisses industry challenge to weaken national sulfur dioxide standard
July 23, 2012
Washington, D.C. —

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled today to uphold a clean air standard that limits dangerous intense bursts of sulfur dioxide pollution from power plants, factories and other sources, rejecting challenges by polluting industries. The standard will prevent thousands of premature deaths, hospital admissions and emergency room visits, and over 50,000 asthma attacks each year.

Sulfur dioxide pollution causes a variety of adverse health impacts including breathing difficulties, aggravation of asthma and increased hospital and emergency room visits for respiratory illnesses.

A copy of the court’s decision can be found here: http://earthjustice.org/documents/legal-document/pdf/sulfur-dioxide-decision

Earthjustice represented the American Lung Association and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in an intervention to defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 sulfur dioxide air safeguard to limit this type of pollution. Sulfur dioxide pollution causes a variety of adverse health impacts including breathing difficulties, aggravation of asthma and increased hospital and emergency room visits for respiratory illnesses. This stronger standard will protect the health of millions of people at risk from sulfur dioxide, especially seniors, children and people with asthma.

“This science-based air protection cuts down on pollution that is making many Americans sick,” said Seth Johnson, associate attorney with Earthjustice. “This standard will help ensure that millions of Americans with asthma, including 7 million children, can go to work or school, not the hospital and emergency room. We are pleased the court ruled in favor of cleaner air.”

“Today’s judicial decision strongly affirms that EPA’s clean air protections addressing dangerous sulfur dioxide are firmly grounded in science and the law,” said Peter Zalzal, staff attorney with Environmental Defense Fund. “This victory ensures America’s families and children will be protected by EPA’s vital clean air safeguards.”

“Clean air health standards tell the public when air pollution can threaten their health,” said Paul G. Billings, vice president of National Policy and Advocacy, American Lung Association. “These standards help protect the public health and are especially important for the most vulnerable, including more than 25 million people with asthma.”

This recent success builds upon a court victory Earthjustice won in 1998 while representing the American Lung Association and EDF. That decision rejected the EPA’s 1996 determination to allow short, sharp bursts of sulfur dioxide pollution that harm people. The newly upheld standard for the first time targets these intense pollution levels.

Contacts

Seth Johnson, Earthjustice, (202) 797-5245

Sharyn Stein, Environmental Defense Fund, (202) 572-3396

Mike Townsend, American Lung Association, (202) 715-3450

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.