Nothing cuts baloney like a court order. Today, in response to a request made by Earthjustice, a federal judge gave the Environmental Protection Agency one week to sign a proposal for tightening standards on soot, an airborne mixture of tiny particles that causes tens of thousands of early deaths every year.
The court’s action is most welcome: there’s been so much foot-dragging at EPA on this issue, you have to wonder if everyone involved needs a new pair of shoes.
The order jumpstarts a process that will hopefully have significant public health ramifications. Last year, we released a report with the American Lung Association (ALA) and Clean Air Task Force called Sick of Soot that showed a strong soot standard could prevent nearly 36,000 premature deaths every year. That averages to a staggering 700 premature deaths just between now and June 7th, the deadline set by the court.
Such a strong standard is scientifically and medically defensible, but politics may yet get in the way. The purveyors of soot pollution are no pushovers, and their pockets are padded: the coal-fired power industry, for example. There will undoubtedly be a lot of industry opposition, however strong the proposal that EPA signs by June 7. But we’ll continue pushing for what the science demands, undeterred.
Next up is a court hearing on June 11 to determine a timeline for EPA to finalize a standard. Given the important public health considerations, we’re asking the court to set a deadline of December 14, 2012. Thanks to Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort for his hard work and longstanding commitment to bringing about EPA standards on soot that are truly protective of public health.