Suit Filed to Strengthen Air Pollution Controls
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed suit in federal court today in an attempt to force the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen air pollution regulations in 15 communities throughout the nation. These are all areas designated by EPA as not meeting federal clean air standards designed to protect public health. The suit contends that EPA missed legal deadlines under the Clean Air Act for requiring stronger anti-pollution plans from these communities. Plaintiffs in the case are the Sierra Club and the Group Against Smog and Pollution.
Communities affected by the suit include: Beaumont/Port Arthur TX; Pittsburgh, PA; Louisville, KY; Portland, ME; Cleveland, OH; Birmingham, AL; Reno, NV; Imperial County, CA; Searles Valley, CA; Pocatello, ID; Salt Lake and Utah Counties, UT; Wallula, WA; Spokane, WA, and Kent & Queen Anne's Counties, MD.
The suit contends that EPA is years behind schedule in determining whether these areas met clean air deadlines, and in requiring stronger control measures for areas that missed the deadlines. Federal law require EPA to reclassify ("bump up") delinquent areas to more severe air pollution classifications within six months of the missed deadlines. A bump up would trigger stronger clean air requirements in each area, including tighter restrictions on pollution from major factories, refineries, and power plants. Areas with three straight years of clean air can avoid a bump up by showing that they have adopted all required controls, and by adopting a ten year plan to assure continued compliance with standards.
The affected communities are designated by EPA as "nonattainment" areas for either ozone (smog) or particulate matter. Ozone is a severe lung irritant that damages lung tissue, reduces lung function, and causes such symptoms as chest pain, nausea, and pulmonary congestion. Particulate matter consists of airborne soot, soil, metals, and other particles, and is linked to premature death, reduced lung function, and aggravation of lung disease. The Clean Air Act generally required attainment of ozone standards by 1996, and particulate standards by 1994.
The suit was filed in United States District Court in Washington, D.C. It asks the court to order EPA to determine immediately whether the communities met the applicable clean air deadlines, and to bump up those that did not.