Today the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected industry challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) strengthened clean air standard for fine particulate matter, commonly known as soot. The court also rejected related industry challenges to a requirement that states monitor soot levels near heavily-trafficked roads.
Earthjustice intervened in this lawsuit to support EPA in defending the standard from challenges brought by industry. Earthjustice represented the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
Statement by Nick Morales, Lead Counsel on this case for Earthjustice: “Today’s decision is a victory for public health that will save tens of thousands of lives and more than a billion dollars in health related costs every year. The science overwhelmingly shows that soot kills, and is especially dangerous for our children and seniors. This decision affirms the need for tough controls on deadly soot pollution and protects children, seniors and people with lung disease, heart disease and diabetes from the dangers of this deadly pollutant.”
Deadly fine particulate matter, also known as soot, is caused by pollution from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial power plants. Breathing soot can cause premature death, heart disease and lung damage. It has also been linked with developmental and reproductive harms.
EPA’s adoption of a more health protective annual standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is overwhelmingly supported by extensive evidence of health effects evidence and will result in significant national health benefits, including the prevention of thousands of premature deaths each year. Numerous studies published in the last decade showing that PM2.5 causes cardiovascular, respiratory, and other harms at lower ambient levels.
PM2.5 is a lethal airborne pollutant that causes premature death and a host of other significant health harms. Sources of PM2.5 include emissions from motor vehicles and diesel engines, coal-fired power plants, and other industrial sources. Not surprisingly, elevated levels of PM2.5 pollution are found in and near metropolitan areas with high traffic. The particles that make up PM2.5 are microscopic, enabling them to lodge deep within the lungs where they cause cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes, respiratory disease and asthma exacerbation, and death. Those with preexisting lung or heart disease, elderly persons, children, and individuals with low socioeconomic status are most susceptible to the threats posed by PM2.5 pollution.
The court found that EPA’s decision to require the placement of air monitors near heavily trafficked roadways in major urban areas to capture the elevated levels of PM2.5 to which people are being exposed was well supported by the record, comports with the Clean Air Act and is justified to adequately protect people living and spending time near roads. Moreover, EPA's elimination of the use of spatial averaging of multiple monitoring sites to measure compliance with the annual standard will protect vulnerable populations from disproportionately high (and unsafe) concentrations of PM2.5.