WASHINGTON—(ENEWSPF)—March 12, 2018
By: Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, Brian Willis, Sierra Club, and Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health
Three conservation and public-health groups filed a formal notice of intent today to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to ensure that Detroit, Indianapolis and other cities and counties that are home to millions of people have valid plans for cleaning up dangerous sulfur dioxide air pollution.
Today’s notice letter points out that the EPA already determined that these 20 areas in nine states — ranging from the Midwest to West Virginia and Florida — have sulfur dioxide pollution at levels high enough to trigger asthma attacks and cause other human health and ecological problems.
But despite those findings, the Scott Pruitt-led agency has failed to make sure the localities are taking legally required steps to plan for cleaning up the pollutants, which are produced primarily by coal-burning power plants.
“The head of the EPA is failing to protect millions of Americans from a deadly pollutant that can steal the breath out of their lungs,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Clean Air Act can saves lives and clean sulfur dioxide out of our skies, but it only works when the EPA holds polluters accountable.”
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set national ambient air-quality standards to protect human health and public welfare from pollutants like sulfur oxides, which are produced from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
Once the agency determines an area’s air pollution exceeds the national standard, the law provides deadlines for ensuring there is a plan to clean up that pollution. In this case the EPA has missed those deadlines by anywhere from five months to 26 years.
“The law required that Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration to have long since acted to cut dangerous sulfur dioxide pollution from the air we breathe, but they have ignored those deadlines for protecting the public and are instead turning a blind eye to corporate polluters,” said Sierra Club Attorney Zachary Fabish. “Kids and families in some of our country’s most vulnerable communities are getting sick while Pruitt violates the law by not acting, so we are taking him to court so that the safeguards that protect the public are enforced.”
Measured as sulfur dioxide, sulfur pollution causes a range of public-health and environmental problems. Sulfur oxides contribute to heart and lung diseases and are particularly threatening to children and the elderly. The EPA’s updated scientific studies show a link between sulfur oxides developmental effects in children. Sulfur oxides also contribute to acid rain and haze, damaging lakes, streams and ecosystems throughout the United States and decreasing visibility in national parks.
“The Trump administration’s refusal to reduce dangerous air pollution illegally jeopardizes the health and well-being of millions of Americans,” said Caroline Cox, senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health. “Breathing air filled with toxic chemicals poses a particular threat to the long-term health of children’s lungs, because their bodies are still developing, they are more active and they spend more time outside.”
The areas where the EPA has failed to make sure air-pollution plans are in place include: Detroit, Lemont, Ill., Pekin, Ill., Indianapolis, Indiana’s Morgan County, Parts of Daviess and Pike Counties, Ind., Terre Haute, Ind., Muscatine, Iowa, Missouri’s Jackson and Jefferson counties, Lake County, Ohio, Muskingum River, Ohio, the Ohio and West Virginia portions of the Steubenville area, Rhinelander, Wis., and Florida’s Hillsborough and Nassau counties.
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 toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods.
The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization with more than 3 million members and supporters working to safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife, and preserve wild places through public education, lobbying, and litigation.