HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TO SUE EPA TO TACKLE SMOG PROBLEM
American Lung Association -
Environmental Defense -
Natural Resources Defense Council - Sierra Club - Clean Air Trust
Alabama Environmental Council - Clean Air Council
Michigan Environmental Council - Ohio Environmental Council
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
(Washington, D.C. May 30, 2002) - Frustrated by "foot dragging" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a coalition of health and environmental groups today announced they'll take legal action to prod EPA to enforce new national health standards for ozone, or smog. In addition to taking their case to court, the groups also indicated that they would begin pressing EPA publicly to do its share in helping state and local governments to lower harmful levels of smog by adopting federal emission standards for some of the key sources of smog such as diesel-powered construction and industrial equipment, and power plants.
The groups, including the American Lung Association, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense and Natural Resources Defense Council, said they plan to sue EPA to force the agency to begin implementing the ozone standard adopted by the agency nearly five years ago.
"As we enter the summer smog season, it's high time for EPA to stop foot dragging and take prompt action to protect our health from the dangers of smog," said John L. Kirkwood, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association
As a first step, Kirkwood called on EPA to formally identify parts of the nation with unhealthful air quality.
"EPA has said it may wait until 2004 to take this step," noted Marti Sinclair of the Sierra Club. "That's just not acceptable. Every year of delay means more suffering for our families."
The ozone standard was strengthened in 1997 in response to a compelling body of scientific evidence that the nation's children and other vulnerable groups suffer harmful health effects from exposure to ozone levels present today in many communities.
"The medical evidence demonstrating that smog is a threat to public health has only become stronger in the past five years since the smog standard was adopted by EPA," said Joe Goffman with Environmental Defense. "Recent studies have linked high ozone levels to school absences, asthma attacks and decreased lung function in children."
EPA itself has found that more than 120 million people live in areas with unhealthful ozone levels.
John D. Walke, director of the Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council noted that enforcement of the standards had been delayed by lawsuits filed by big polluters including the coal, oil, chemical, trucking and electric power industries.
"But the Supreme Court unanimously rejected industry's arguments in February 2001," Walke noted. "And last March a federal appeals court shot down remaining legal challenges to the standards."
Walke added that EPA needs to "supply prompt and clear legal guidance to the states so they can begin devising appropriate clean-up strategies."
"EPA has successfully defended the 1997 smog standards in a marathon industry lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court and back," said Howard Fox, Earthjustice attorney. "That victory will mean little, however, if the agency leaves the new standard on the shelf, instead of getting states started on the cleanup required by law. The 120 million Americans who live in areas with unhealthy ozone levels deserve no less."
of the Clean Air Trust noted that while state and local governments have primary responsibility to develop plans to achieve the standards, the federal government can help. He noted that EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to devise a new multi-state plan to reduce smog-forming emissions from electric power plants.
"EPA also should move promptly to close the dirty diesel loophole that permits diesel-powered construction equipment to emit more pollution than diesel trucks and buses," he added.
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