Environmental Groups Intervene to Defend U.S. EPA Air Rules

States and industry groups challenging crucial sulfur dioxide air standards


David Baron, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 203


Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 221


Mary Havell, American Lung Association, (202) 715-3459


Sharyn Stein, Environmental Defense Fund, (202) 572-3396

The American Lung Association and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) intervened on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to defend important air quality standards that will limit sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants, factories, and other sources. Tuesday’s court filing by Earthjustice seeks to oppose industry suits challenging the public health standards.

The EPA strengthened the national ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide air pollution in June 2010, the first time EPA had strengthened the standard since 1971. In August, several industry groups and two states filed court challenges to the new standards. EPA’s revised standards for sulfur dioxide will limit the dangerous, short-term exposures to sulfur dioxide. The stronger standards will help prevent thousands of asthma attacks and hundreds of emergency room visits. Since sulfur dioxide emissions transform into fine particles in the air, this standard will significantly reduce extremely harmful particulate matter pollution, saving thousands of lives.

“Breathing in sulfur dioxide can have dire consequences on human health,” said Janice E. Nolen of the American Lung Association. “These bursts of sulfur dioxide pose a special problem for residents who live next door to power plants, but they also spread far beyond them. EPA was right to adopt stronger standards that will save lives, and keep many people out of the hospital.”

Sulfur dioxide pollution causes a variety of adverse health impacts including breathing difficulties, aggravation of asthma, and increased hospital and emergency room visits for respiratory illnesses. This stronger standard will improve the health of millions of people at risk from these pollutants, especially seniors, children and people with chronic lung diseases and cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

“EPA’s clean air standard will help ensure millions of Americans have healthier and longer lives,” said Vickie Patton, General Counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund. “This science-based clean air standard is critical to protect against the peak, short-term pollution exposures that are especially dangerous to children, senior citizens, and people with asthma.”

The Lung Association, EDF, and Earthjustice won a successful suit in 1998 that directed EPA to examine if the sulfur dioxide standards then in place served to protect people against high bursts of sulfur dioxide pollution. This new standard will provide more protection from those intense, high pollution levels.

“The law requires clean air standards to be strong enough to protect health.” said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. “We want to make sure that kids and senior citizens can go outside without getting sick just from breathing.”

For more information about EPA’s health based national ambient air quality standard for sulfur dioxide, please see http://www.epa.gov/air/sulfurdioxide/actions.html#jun10.

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