Conservation Groups Move to Defend Clean Air Protections

Court actions by county governments, industry, states seek to exempt counties from clean air programs


David Baron, Jennifer Chavez, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500
Marti Sinclair, Sierra Club (513) 674-1983

Earthjustice, representing Sierra Club, today filed court papers to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s designation of areas throughout the country in violation of federal health standards for airborne particle pollution, commonly known as soot. Last month, nine cities and counties, ten power industry groups and three states filed suits in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington challenging the protective air quality designations. Earthjustice is moving to intervene in these lawsuits to oppose the challenges.

In January, the U.S. EPA identified areas violating air quality standards for so-called PM 2.5, fine particulate matter as small as 2.5 microns in diameter. Counties included within these “nonattainment” areas must adopt rules to limit this form of pollution. Earthjustice seeks to oppose efforts by industry and other challengers to shrink the size of areas subject to pollution controls.

“This form of pollution can be deadly, and it doesn’t stop at the county line,” said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. “To protect public health, we need strong pollution limits on a regional basis.”

EPA approved the new designations January 5, 2005, estimating that compliance with the new standard will prevent at least 15,000 premature deaths, 10,000 hospital admissions, 75,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, and millions of days of missed work and restricted activity nationwide every year. Under the Clean Air Act—the nation’s strongest protection against air pollution—EPA is required to periodically review and update air quality standards and areas that are or are not achieving healthy levels. Designating counties in violation of PM 2.5 standards starts the clean up process.

“EPA has a responsibility to protect our health and our environment from dirty, polluted air,” said Marti Sinclair, Chairperson for Sierra Club’s Air Quality Committee. “To think that industry polluters are fighting EPA to avoid taking steps that would protect the health of our families and communities is a shame. This is the first step towards achieving cleaner air, and one that needs to be taken.”

EPA based the designations on monitoring data from 2001 through 2003. Indiana, Ohio, southern California, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia and New Jersey among others have many counties in nonattainment with the PM 2.5 standard. State and county governments are involved in the lawsuit, as well as Columbus Southern Power, Dayton Power and Light, the Ohio Valley Electric Corp., Ohio Power Co. Timmermeyer, and Dynegy Midwest Generation.

“The Dayton Power and Light Stuart, Ohio, plant is one of the dirtiest power plants in the state,” said Marilyn Wall, Sierra Club Ohio Chapter Conservation Chair. “Ohio has some of the top polluters in the country and is responsible for dirtying the air regionally. EPA’s designations offer a chance to clean our towns and cities, and we should all make every effort to better our environment.”

A map of areas EPA has designated in violation of PM 2.5 rules is available here.

A copy of today’s filing is available here.



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