EPA Declares Victory as San Joaquin Valley Continues to Suffer Dirty Air

Clean air advocates demand agency to "get back to work"


Paul Cort, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700
Kevin Hamilton, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, (559) 288-5244

A coalition of public health, community, and environmental groups, are challenging US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) October 2006 declaration that the San Joaquin Valley had attained federal clean air standards for particulate matter (PM-10). The EPA declared the San Joaquin Valley had met the national ambient air quality standards for PM-10, according to EPA’s analysis, because the Valley had gone three years (2003-2005) without violating those standards. With this finding, the EPA also waived a court-ordered obligation to adopt measures to clean up the region’s air. Sources of particulate matter pollution include activities that generates dust, soot, or smoke.

On Wednesday, Earthjustice on behalf of Latino Issues Forum, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, and the three Sierra Club Chapters in the Valley filed a lawsuit against the EPA in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. These groups claim that in finding the Valley has met the standards, the EPA ignored significant contradictory data from pollution monitors in the southern region of the air district that show the air pollution problem continues. The coalition seeks to have the EPA decision overturned by the court.

“The EPA chose to ‘cherry pick’ the data from spots where the air is cleanest and ignores those where it is not,” said Kevin Hamilton of Medical Advocates for Healthy Air. “People suffering respiratory illness from this pollution aren’t buying this data shell game.”

In addition to the lawsuit, on Friday, Earthjustice petitioned EPA itself to reconsider its October 2006 determination. The petition, filed on behalf of a large number of Valley public health and environmental groups, notes that EPA’s final determination decided to ignore violations of the particulate matter standard that occurred in September just before EPA issued its final rule. EPA included this decision in the final rule without any technical support and without allowing the public to review and comment on this decision. The petition demands that EPA withdraw its decision, explain why it chose to ignore these violations, and allow the public an opportunity to comment on this decision as required by law.

“EPA was so determined to make this finding, it was willing to ignore public outcry, ignore science, and ignore the law. It appears the EPA made this determination in order to avoid adopting controls required by the Clean Air Act,” said Paul Cort an attorney for Earthjustice who is representing the coalition in court. “EPA has lost all sense of its reason for being. The public should be outraged by the lengths EPA is willing to go to protect polluters instead of the public.”

Read the petition to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Read the petition to the EPA

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.