Green groups sue EPA over particulate matter in key Western states

The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health and Neighbors for Clean Air have sued the Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly failing to enforce air quality standards that limit dangerous particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants, cars and other sources in several Western states.

The Oct. 8 lawsuit seeks to force the EPA to ensure that communities in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Utah are implementing air quality plans that meet clean air standards to reduce soot pollution, the groups said in a news release.

The litigation was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The groups claim that EPA Region 9 has failed to make findings for nonattainment state implementation plans for the 2006 particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter.

This case involves EPA‘s failure to timely implement the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM2.5. There is no safe level of exposure to PM2.5, which includes hazardous forms of dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets found in the air.

The case is filed as a Clean Air Act citizen suit. It is brought under a provision where citizens can accuse the government of failure to perform a non-discretionary duty required by the Clean Air Act.

The groups noted that it has been more than 60 days since EPA received their “notice of intent to sue” letter. Yet, EPA has not remedied the violations cited in the compliant, the groups said.

Soot pollution causes serious health problems for people and wildlife, creates regional haze, and harms the environment. The burning of fossil fuels to generate power and drive automobiles has led to soot pollution throughout the country.

The suit seeks a mandatory injunction requiring EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to perform her mandatory duties listed above by certain dates.

“Soot is one of the deadliest types of pollution, and even the EPA has acknowledged that soot pollution is linked to premature death, heart attacks and strokes, and childhood asthma and bronchitis,” said Caroline Cox of the Center for Environmental Health. “The residents of these states should not have to wait any longer for clean air that won’t make them sick.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set nationwide, health and public welfare-based standards for particulate pollution and sets mandatory deadlines to develop plans to achieve and maintain air quality standards. Today’s lawsuit demands that the agency correct these violations in order to set up plans to reduce dangerous soot levels.

In September, the Center for Biological Diversity reached an agreement with the EPA to enforce Clean Air Act standards limiting dangerous pollution from tiny airborne particles like soot in Iowa and Puerto Rico.

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