As the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to announce which areas of the country continue to experience unhealthy levels of fine particle air pollution, a coalition of conservation and public health groups is going to court to challenge the agency’s inadequate rules for ozone pollution.
In April, the Bush administration issued a pair of new rules intended to reduce the air pollution that now makes it unhealthy to breathe in nearly one in five U.S. counties. Unfortunately, the rules — specifying what steps polluted areas must take to reduce ozone pollution — fall well short of the measures needed to protect public health.
“The stated purpose of these rules was to implement a stronger standard to protect public health and the environment, but they allow too much leeway for polluters and too little protection for breathers,” said David Baron, one of the two Earthjustice attorneys who are representing the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club in the lawsuits filed today.
EPA’s new rules relax existing cleanup requirements in some of the nation’s most polluted cities — which the coalition contends is unlawful under the federal Clean Air Act. In addition, other counties are given too much time to meet the new standards, and too few benchmarks to meet along the way, the groups contend.
“Weaker action to implement a stronger standard? It just doesn’t add up, and certainly doesn’t do justice to the asthmatics and other ozone-sensitive people who have been waiting decades for relief,” said Earthjustice attorney Howard Fox. “The agency’s implementation rule is short on specifics, and long on delay.”
“Once again, the Bush administration has failed to protect the heath of our families from the dangers of air pollution,” said Nat Mund, Clean Air expert at the Sierra Club. “There is a better way: the administration should be requiring state and local governments to take strong steps to reduce air pollution, and make communities clean, safe, and healthy.”
Additional contacts: John Walke, NRDC Clean Air Director, 202-289-2406
Brian O’Malley, Media Coordinator, Sierra Club, 202-675-6279
Petitions for review:
Chronology of the campaign to protect public health from ground level ozone