Earthjustice today filed its opening brief in federal court, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of toxic air pollution from cars, trucks, and buses. Earthjustice sued the agency in May 2001 on behalf of Sierra Club, United States Public Interest Group, and Natural Resources Defense Council in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The toxic pollutants from cars, trucks, and buses include (among many others) benzene, formaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene, acetaldehyde, and diesel exhaust, all known or probable carcinogens and associated with other devastating health effects such as miscarriage, reproductive and developmental disorders, respiratory system damage and asthma. The Clean Air Act required EPA to complete emission standards for all of the toxic pollutants — including “at a minimum” benzene and formaldehyde — by May 1995. The Act further requires that EPA’s standards reflect the “greatest degree of emission reduction achievable,” considering the agency’s other mobile source standards, cost, safety, energy, and lead-time. In March of 2001, almost six years after the statutory deadline expired, EPA promulgated standards that require no reductions in any pollutants, and actually allow emissions of benzene and formaldehyde to increase.
“Congress knew that the toxics from cars, trucks and buses are a serious public health threat, and it enacted law to protect Americans from that threat,” said James Pew, an attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the environmental groups in court. “For EPA to ignore that law, as it did here, is the height of irresponsibility. By failing to do even the minimum that Congress required, EPA is playing roulette with millions of Americans’ health.”
EPA estimates that motor vehicles, construction equipment, lawn and garden equipment, and other mobile sources emitted 1.6 million tons of toxins in 1996. According to an EPA study, more than 250 million people nationally are subject to an unacceptable cancer risk due to mobile source toxic pollutants.