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Protecting Air Quality In The San Joaquin Valley

An industrial facility in California's Central Valley.

An industrial facility in California's Central Valley.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

What’s at Stake

Cities in California’s Central Valley dominate the American Lung Association’s top ten list of areas with the worst air pollution, yet meaningful action to improve air quality in the region is nonexistent. Earthjustice is challenging EPA’s cycle of inaction to ensure that the millions of people who live and work in the valley are protected.


For more than a decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has neglected to take any concerted action to address the air pollution crisis in California’s Central Valley. Meanwhile, more than half a dozen cities in the region annually take top spots among the nation’s dirtiest places to live.

On the streets of these communities, millions of people are exposed daily to intolerably dangerous levels of ozone and soot—released by the drilling operations, diesel trucks and factory farms that operate throughout the region. Illness is the result, particularly in children, the elderly and individuals with respiratory problems like asthma.

The crisis is avoidable, but it will require more from EPA and the Central Valley air district than what’s been done thus far: a series of weak state plans that collect dust on federal desks for years. Earthjustice is pursuing two lawsuits against the EPA that seek strong, timely and enforceable controls against ozone pollution in the Central Valley. We are meeting with the EPA to discuss new approaches that will break the agency out of the pattern of delay followed by approval of air quality plans that will not be sufficient to clean the air.

Case ID

2057, 2058, 2785, 3708

Case Updates

October 24, 2018 | Legal Document

Clean Air Act Deadline Enforcement: Court Order Directing U.S. EPA to Issue Findings

It is hereby ordered and declared that: Defendants Andrew Wheeler, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Mike Stoker, Regional Administrator, Region 9, EPA, are in violation of the Clean Air Act with regard to their mandatory, nondiscretionary duty under 42 U.S.C. § 7410(k)(1)(B) to make findings that the State of California has failed to submit for the San Joaquin Valley three overdue nonattainment state implementation plans addressing nonattainment of the 1997, 2006, and 2012 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).