Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of the Sierra Club against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today over the agency’s failure to meet the deadline for its report on stricter federal emission standards for cars and light-duty trucks. The new standards, known as “Tier II standards,” are part of Congress’s 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act.
“If the EPA simply followed the law, we could dramatically reduce the health threat from smog, soot and carbon monoxide produced by cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles,” remarked James Pew, an attorney for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. “EPA’s failure to meet the deadline threatens to set back the entire process for reducing emissions.”
The Tier II standards are intended to prevent violations of the federal health standards for ground level ozone (smog), particulate matter (soot), and carbon monoxide pollution by requiring the manufacturers to build cleaner vehicles. Congress required EPA to submit its report as part of a series of steps to obtain the necessary emission reductions. Only after EPA submits the report can it begin the process to set Tier II standards.
Many parts of the country face a serious health threat from the pollution caused by cars and light trucks, but EPA’s Tier II standards could reduce this threat with existing cost-effective technology. Significantly, almost half of all new vehicles sold are light trucks or sport utility vehicles. The current rule allows them higher emissions than cars, even though they are used as passenger vehicles, and can meet the same standards. Tier II standards would treat sport utility vehicles and light trucks the same as cars, and reduce the emissions from this rapidly growing segment of the market.
“It’s time for the EPA to stop dragging its heels,” noted Carl Pope, Sierra Club’s Executive Director. “Emissions reductions are already technologically feasible and cost-effective. The longer they delay, the longer our kids will unnecessarily suffer the debilitating health effects of smog and soot. Reducing car and truck emissions will allow all Americans to breathe more freely.”
EPA’s failure to meet the June 1, 1997 statutory deadline for its Tier II report threatens to set back the entire process for reducing car and light-duty truck emissions. In the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act, Congress set a schedule that should result in final emission standards taking effect between model years 2004 and 2006, but that schedule included time for EPA finish the study, submit its report, and issue a rule, as well as time for manufacturers to come into compliance. Setting back any part of this schedule is likely to set back the final standards.