On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed court papers stating that it wants another six months to decide whether to strengthen clean air standards for ozone, the main component of urban smog. This delay would be in addition to four months of delay to the rule this year, making the total delay ten months. The agency originally told a federal court the decision would be finalized by August, and later said it was “committed” to finish by December of this year.
The following is a statement by Earthjustice attorney David Baron:
“Delaying this important air rule is deplorable. The nation’s leading medical experts and EPA’s own science advisors say we need stronger standards. This evidence has been available for years. EPA does not need another six months to do its job: It must protect our lungs and those of our children now. Earthjustice is talking with its clients about legal options for putting an end to further delays on these urgently needed protections.”
EPA’s proposed delay of the ozone standard comes only days after the agency asked another federal court to put off by more than a year a deadline to set limits on toxic emissions from industrial boilers.
Ozone air pollution causes premature death, asthma attacks, and other breathing problems. Ozone can send people to emergency rooms and hospitals due to lung distress. Children, people with asthma, and senior citizens are at special risk. According to EPA estimates, stronger ozone standards could save up to 12,000 lives annually, prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks and hospital visits, and prevent hundreds of thousands of lost school and work days.
The current ozone standards, adopted by the Bush administration in 2008, were significantly weaker than recommended by lung doctors and EPA’s science advisors. Earthjustice sued to challenge these standards on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, and Appalachian Mountain Club. The case was put on hold when the Obama EPA said it would reconsider the standards.