Case Number # 2396
A coalition of public health and conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, is pressing their case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s failure to protect the Uinta Basin of northeast Utah from dangerously high levels of smog pollution. Wintertime smog in the basin in recent years rivaling that usually found in Los Angeles and Houston has resulted from air pollution generated by booming oil and gas operations and other industrial activity.
The coalition is arguing that EPA violated the Clean Air Act by failing to designate the Uinta Basin as being in violation of federal health standards. Such a designation would force state and federal agencies clean up the air.
The suit took on additional urgency after the previous winter, when the air pollution in the Uinta Basin exceeded federal health standards on at least 43 days and on several occasions reached near-emergency levels. At-risk residents were urged to avoid exposure to the air pollution by remaining inside although they live in a region known for wide open spaces and an outdoor-oriented lifestyle.
Public health experts recognize the air pollution dangers in the Uinta Basin. The American Lung Association gave Uintah County an “F” for ozone in its 2013 State of the Air report, telling residents that “the air you breathe may put your health at risk.”
Despite the ongoing pollution and public health concerns, the EPA has asserted that the available monitoring data cannot be used to make the Clean Air Act designation, even while the agency admits the data is valid.
The suit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of WildEarth Guardians, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.