Today a federal judge gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency one week to sign a proposed rule updating standards for fine particulate matter air pollution, commonly known as soot. This kind of pollution is linked to tens of thousands of early deaths every year, and causes much of the haze that clouds the nation’s skies. Earthjustice sought the court order on behalf of the American Lung Association and National Parks Conservation Association, after a federal appeals court found the existing standards deficient and EPA missed an October 2011 legal deadline for updating them. A number of states also sought a court-ordered deadline, including New York, California, Maryland, Oregon and Washington.
The following statement is from Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort, who argued the case:
“We’re truly heartened by today’s court action. The EPA has been sitting on a rule that could save tens of thousands of avoidable premature deaths. This court decision is a win for everyone who breathes.”
Airborne particulate matter is comprised of tiny particles of smoke, soot, metals and other chemical compounds emitted from sources like power plants, factories, and diesel trucks. Scientific research shows that these microscopic particles can penetrate deep into lungs, making them one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution. The EPA’s own studies show that each year of delay in strengthening national standards can mean thousands of avoidable deaths and increased cases of respiratory and heart disease.
The U.S. District Court also set a hearing for June 11 to determine a deadline for EPA to finalize the rule. Earthjustice has asked that the court set the deadline for December 14, 2012.