Delays in Reducing Deadly Soot  |  Mountain News

Conservation and public-health groups filed a lawsuit against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt for failing to enforce air-quality standards that limit deadly soot pollution in California, Idaho and Pennsylvania.

Filed on Dec. 20, the lawsuit seeks to force the EPA to ensure that communities in the three states are taking legally required steps to meet clean-air standards to reduce soot, also known as fine particulate matter. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Soot, which comes mainly from burning fossil fuels in cars, power plants and other industrial facilities, causes thousands of premature deaths every year, as well as a range of debilitating health problems for people and wildlife.

“By failing to enforce common-sense measures to reduce soot, Trump’s EPA is sentencing thousands of Americans to asthma and heart attacks and death,” said Robert Ukeiley, environmental health senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “People in these states desperately need cleaner air. But Pruitt doesn’t mind sacrificing human health if it pumps up the profits of his buddies in the fossil fuel industry.”

In the lawsuit, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Environmental Health and Clean Air Council ask the federal court to order EPA to make a finding that the three states have failed to submit plans to reduce dangerous soot levels.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set nationwide health and public welfare-based standards for particulate pollution, and sets mandatory deadlines for states to develop plans to achieve and maintain those standards.

“The EPA and these states are ignoring their duty to clean up our skies to protect all of us from dangerous pollution,” said Christopher Ahlers, a staff attorney at Clean Air Council. “There’s no reason for the EPA to delay stronger protections that hold polluters accountable and protect Americans suffering from dirty air.”

“The Trump administration’s refusal to clean up toxic soot is especially threatening to the health and well-being of children,” added Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “The risk air pollution poses to children is serious because their bodies are still developing; they are more active and spend more time outside. If exposed during childhood, underdeveloped lungs may never recover to their full capacity.”

BACKGROUND

Soot, which the EPA labels as “fine particulate matter” or “PM2.5,” is produced mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. Particulate matter is made up of tiny particles about 30 times smaller than the width of the average human hair, which can lodge deep inside the lungs. Along with causing health problems, it causes regional haze, harms plants and acidifies water bodies. There is no known safe level of fine particulate matter, because even minute amounts lead to death and disease.

An EPA study found that Clean Air Act programs to reduce fine particle pollution prevented more than 160,000 deaths, 130,000 heart attacks and 1.7 million asthma attacks in 2010 alone. The Clean Air Act also has helped to keep the U.S. economy healthy by creating jobs, with more than 1.7 million Americans employed in the environmental technology industry helping to keep our air clean.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Center for Environmental Health works with parents, communities, businesses, workers and government to protect children and families from the toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods.

Clean Air Council is a member-supported environmental organization serving the Mid-Atlantic Region that is dedicated to protecting and defending everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

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