Foot-dragging by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has seriously delayed cleanup of dangerous air pollution in a number of major cities, according to an EPA Inspector General Report released today. The report found that EPA has repeatedly let polluted cities put off legally required cleanup plans, leaving them years behind schedule in curbing unhealthful smog levels.
“These illegal delays mean more days when children and senior citizens are warned to stay indoors because of dirty air,” said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. “EPA needs to stop violating clean air deadlines and start protecting our lungs.”
Earthjustice has repeatedly sued EPA for illegally evading smog cleanup schedules set by the Clean Air Act. In the last two years alone, Earthjustice has obtained three separate court decisions overturning EPA efforts to put off deadlines for metropolitan Washington DC — one of the areas cited in the Inspector General report. Last June, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of four national environmental groups arguing that EPA had illegally weakened anti-smog requirements for polluted cities throughout the nation.
Among other things, the Inspector General found that:
- Most of the nation’s smoggiest cities have shown no significant improvement in smog levels over the past 10 years;
- EPA has let a number of major cities put off achieving pollution reductions until years after the deadlines for achieving those reductions;
- At least 21 of the 25 most polluted cities are still struggling to meet pre-existing smog standards, even as EPA is required to implement a new, more protective standard.
Ozone, the primary component of smog, is a powerful irritant that leaves the lungs inflamed, as though they were sunburned. Ozone causes asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing and other respiratory distress, and is linked to increased use of medications, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits.
EPA Inspector General Report