A federal court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency incorrectly enforced soot control requirements in the Clean Air Act. The decision requires the EPA to develop more specific guidelines. Communities will have five years to comply with the new requirements before being mandated to meet tougher standards.
On October 17, 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency refused to strengthen the annual primary particulate matter standard, despite the nearly unanimous recommendation from its own Clean Air Science Advisory Committee that the standard be strengthened. In addition, EPA refused to adopt a more protective secondary standard to protect visibility, and revoked another annual standard for clean air.
Earthjustice challenged this action, and in February 2009, a federal court ruled that these Bush-era clean air standards were deficient, and sent them back to EPA for corrective action. In 2012, the EPA adopted a more health protective annual standard for fine particulate matter, which Earthjustice then successfully intervened in a lawsuit defending the standard from challenges brought by industry.
A new air pollution standard approved by the Obama administration is expected to save lives, increase life expectancy and reduce illness in communities affected by air pollution. The EPA estimates annual savings in healthcare and other costs to be around $4 billion to $9.1 billion. The new rules came about in response to Earthjustice litigation.
"This morning's testimony was so moving, I wish I'd had tissues with me," said one speaker. "It never occurred to me that I would need them at an EPA public hearing."
The historical significance of the Environmental Protection Agency's recently proposed new limits on fine particle pollution, colloquially called soot, wasn't lost on a number of editorial pages. Soot is a known killer—the science clearly indicates soot's connections to premature death, heart and lung damage, and potentially even cancer and developmental and reproductive harm.