Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will address ground-level ozone — the main component of smog — that persists throughout the United States. The proposed “Good Neighbor” plan requires reductions of air pollution emitted by power plants and industrial sources in 26 upwind states that then blows into downwind states. If finalized, the rule will significantly improve air quality and public health, avoiding one thousand premature deaths and more than one million asthma attacks each year. EPA’s new proposal comes in response to a lawsuit Earthjustice filed on behalf of community and environmental organizations.
While ozone is good as a protective layer in the stratosphere, ground-level ozone causes asthma attacks, other respiratory illness and is linked to premature deaths. More than 127 million people live in parts of the country that suffer from unhealthy ozone levels. Ground-level ozone also damages plants and ecosystems, stunts tree and crop growth, and contributes to climate change. Formed by emissions from cars, trucks, power plants, and factories, ozone is a greenhouse gas, and curtailing it is a powerful way to help solve the climate crisis.
“Interstate ozone pollution is a dangerous public health and environmental threat that EPA and many states for years failed to address,” said Kathleen Riley, Earthjustice attorney. “We applaud EPA for hearing environmental justice communities and for proposing strong action to protect public health.”
“This is progress,” said John Walke, clean air director for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Ozone pollution harms millions of people, including the country’s most vulnerable — children, communities of color, low-income communities, and older people. EPA is taking important steps to protect residents of downwind states from unsafe levels of smog pollution, because upwind polluting industries have failed to reduce harmful air pollution. We will urge EPA to take the strongest action that science and the law will support.”
“Many of our members living near fossil fuel and petrochemical facilities frequently experience health harms caused by ozone pollution. Today’s announcement helps vindicate these community voices and sends a strong signal to states with unfettered extraction: EPA will rein in your interstate ozone pollution if you will not,” said Aaron Mintzes, Earthworks senior policy counsel.
In this lawsuit Earthjustice represents Air Alliance Houston, Appalachian Mountain Club, Center for Biological Diversity Downwinders at Risk, Earthworks, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. Clean Air Task Force represents Clean Wisconsin.