Amid the wrangling back and forth in Congress over our clean air protections, there is some good news for our air. This morning the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an effort from industry groups and allied states to suspend an EPA rule adopted last June that will limit dangerous sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants and factories. The court also denied attempts to delay implementation of this health protection.
Exposure to sulfur dioxide is linked to asthma symptoms and respiratory illnesses, particularly in children, senior citizens and asthmatic patients. The EPA’s stronger standards will help prevent thousands of asthma attacks and hospital and emergency room visits. And since sulfur dioxide emissions transform into fine particles in the air, this standard will significantly reduce extremely harmful particulate matter pollution, saving thousands of lives.
This isn’t the first time this court has rejected recent attempts by industry to delay air pollution controls. In December, it similarly denied industry motions to suspend greenhouse gas rules.
In this case, we are representing the American Lung Association and the Environmental Defense Fund in an intervention to defend these air protections. It builds upon a court victory we won in 1998 while representing the same two groups.That decision directed the EPA to examine if sulfur dioxide standards then in place served to protect people against high bursts of sulfur dioxide pollution. The new standard (that industry is now trying to overturn) will provide more protection from those intense, high pollution levels.
“Today’s decision means that EPA can move forward to put in place standards that will protect the public health as the Clean Air Act requires,” said Charles D. Connor, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association. “Breathing in sulfur dioxide can have dire consequences on human health. These bursts of sulfur dioxide pose a special problem for residents who live next door to power plants, but they also spread far beyond them. EPA was right to adopt stronger standards that will save lives, and keep many people out of the hospital.”
“As the case continues these clean air protections will remain in place ensuring millions of Americans can breathe easier,” said Peter Zalzal an attorney with EDF.
“Protection against bursts of sulfur dioxide pollution is long overdue,” said Earthjustice associate attorney Seth Johnson. “We are pleased that the court denied these baseless attempts to stall safeguards that will protect the health of millions of Americans, especially children, seniors, and people who suffer from asthma and other lung diseases.”