In another victory for public health, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule for failing to eliminate harmful ozone pollution — smog — that travels across state lines and contributes to unhealthy air in downwind states. Echoing a ruling issued last month, the Court again rejected EPA’s attempt to delay health protections that would save hundreds of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks every year.
The case was briefed by Earthjustice attorneys representing Downwinders At Risk, Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, and Air Alliance Houston, along with Clean Wisconsin, Clean Air Task Force, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The environmental and public health groups were joined by six states and the City of New York in challenging the EPA decision.
The decision will require EPA to place tighter limits on industrial sources of air pollution. Currently, 49 counties with more than 36 million people in the Eastern United States and Texas suffer from ozone levels that exceed the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Ozone exposure at this level and below can result in chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, scarring of the lungs, and premature death, and is particularly harmful to children. The areas of the country that suffer from unhealthy air due to cross-state pollution are disproportionately home to communities of color.
“In Houston, our communities have never breathed clean air in accordance with federal standards set by the Clean Air Act. We have shouldered the real-life impacts for far too long. This is a huge step to clean up ozone and air toxics pollution in environmental justice communities and to better the lives of millions of people across the nation. We hope that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and other upwind states will expeditiously implement and comply with any new federal regulations to address interstate ozone pollution. This win brings us one step closer to addressing the disproportionate, cumulative impacts borne by communities of color in the Houston nonattainment area every day,” said Juan Parras Executive Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.
“This is another big win for public health and the environment,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Neil Gormley, the lead attorney on the case. “Now it’s past time for EPA to stop stalling and do its job.”