Earthjustice today will file its brief on behalf of public health and environmental organizations that are opposing industry’s attempts to overturn a vital Clean Air Act regulation. The law firm for the environment will file in the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in defense of the Phase II diesel rule – an EPA regulation requiring large diesel trucks and buses to dramatically cut the pollution they emit. Intervening in opposition to industry challenges, Earthjustice is representing the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, and US Public Interest Research Group in National Petrochemical & Refiners Association v. USEPA, D.C. Cir. 01-1052. Also intervening is Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Diesel trucks and buses have been among the dirtiest pollution sources for years, causing thousand of premature deaths, and many more cases of serious illness, every year,” said Howard Fox of Earthjustice. “For too long, these ‘pollution factories on wheels’ have been getting a free ride by not having to meet the same emissions standards as cars. This rule changes that, placing autos and diesel trucks and buses on a level playing field.”
EPA in January issued the Phase II diesel regulation that requires pollution from new heavy-duty trucks and buses to be reduced dramatically. Responsible for large numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and missed workdays each year, particle pollution – known as soot – is to be reduced by 90 percent under the rule. Nitrogen oxides, which contribute to the formation of ozone – known as smog – that causes asthma attacks, respiratory pain, and reduced lung function, must be cut by 95 percent under the rule. To make these reductions possible, the rule also mandates a 97 percent cut in diesel fuel sulfur. The reduction of sulfur is crucial because sulfur in diesel fuel damages emission control equipment. The phase-in of the fuel requirement is scheduled to begin in 2006 and the emission requirements are to start in 2007.
EPA estimates that annually the rule will prevent 8,300 premature deaths, more than 9,500 hospitalizations, 5,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, 17,600 cases of acute bronchitis in children, and more than 1.5 million lost workdays. The rule also will prevent cancers from diesel exhaust, which EPA has found to be a likely carcinogen in humans.
“Pollution from diesel trucks and buses also increases risk of lung cancer,” said John Kirkwood, president of the American Lung Association. “A study in Los Angeles found that diesel emissions are responsible for 70 percent of the overall cancer risk associated with air pollution. Controlling this pollution is a vital step forward in protecting public health.”
The rule was the result of a year and a half of review and five hearings around the country and is supported by a broad spectrum of environmental and public health organizations, state officials, and even industry groups.
For additional information, contact: Diane Maple, American Lung Association at 202.785.3355; Vickie Patton, Environmental Defense at 303.440.4901; John Walke, Natural Resources Defense Council at 202.289.6868; Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club at 202.675.7908; Becky Stanfield, US Public Interest Research Group at 202.546.9707.