Responding to a rash of missed clean air deadlines, Earthjustice today filed the second of seven lawsuits challenging the federal government’s chronic failure to protect Americans from the health hazards of toxic air pollution. Earthjustice represents Sierra Club in its second suit this week against the Environmental Protection Agency. To compel EPA to do its job, Earthjustice is filing one lawsuit each day for a week.
All seven lawsuits address EPA’s repeated failure to establish controls for highly toxic air pollutants such as dioxins, PCBs, and mercury ¾ pollutants that can cause devastating health effects even in tiny doses. Today’s lawsuit challenges EPA’s failure to implement a key requirement in the Clean Air Act: the Act’s mandate to reduce emissions of the hazardous air pollutants that are the greatest threat to public health in urban areas. These pollution sources include chemical plants and various types of waste incinerators, among others, but the list is incomplete and most of the sources remain unregulated.
“The Clean Air Act’s provisions for hazardous air pollution focus primarily on ‘major sources,’ that emit very large amounts of pollution each year,” said James Pew, an attorney with Earthjustice. “But Congress also recognized that hazardous emissions from smaller sources can significantly threaten public health, especially in towns and cities where such sources may be numerous and concentrated. So Congress required EPA to identify the categories of smaller sources that most threaten public health in urban areas and to ensure that those categories are subject to the same strict standards as the larger sources.”
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to identify the relevant categories of smaller pollution sources by November 15, 1995, and to promulgate regulations for them by November 15, 2000.
“Almost six years after the statutory deadline, EPA still hasn’t even identified all the categories required,” points out Dr. Bob Palzer, chair of Sierra Club’s Air Committee. “And of the 29 categories that EPA has identified, the agency has left 20 uncontrolled.”
“EPA’s failure to do its job is putting people at risk, especially people living in the more industrialized parts of cities and towns,” said Marti Sinclair, chair of Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Committee. “The risk of disease from these highly toxic pollutants is a risk that Congress wanted EPA to eliminate. Essentially the administration is reneging on Congress’s promise.”
On behalf of Sierra Club, Earthjustice filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
For more information, contact Suzanne Carrier of Earthjustice (202-667-4500) or Bob Palzer, Ph.D. of Sierra Club (541-482-2492).