Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 12, 2018

Contact: Diana Dascalu-Joffe, (720) 925-2521,   

Court: Trump’s EPA Broke Law, Failed to Curb Widespread Ozone Pollution  

WASHINGTON— A federal judge today ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency broke the law when it failed to enact nationwide standards to curb deadly ozone pollution. The decision affects cities and rural areas across the country where ozone pollution levels are too high, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, the Bay Area and Utah’s Uintah Basin.

All of them will be designated as being out of compliance with the Clean Air Act in the coming months, according to today’s ruling.

The Center for Biological Diversity in December joined other public health and conservation groups in the lawsuit against the EPA and administrator Scott Pruitt. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Haywood Stirling Gilliam Jr. agreed the Trump administration violated the Clean Air Act when the EPA missed an Oct. 1 deadline to designate major metropolitan areas and rural regions across the country as out of compliance with clean air regulations.

“The court’s decision rightfully puts public health over the profits of polluters,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney at the Center. “The Trump administration’s foot-dragging has endangered the lives of the most vulnerable Americans, including children with asthma and seniors. It’s shameful that it takes a court order to get Scott Pruitt’s EPA to do its job.”

Designation as a “non-attainment” area requires states, tribes and federal agencies to reduce ozone pollution and can free up federal funds to help them. Today’s order says the EPA must designate all areas in the U.S. that have unsafe ozone levels, except San Antonio, by April 30. The San Antonio designation must come by July 17, the judge ruled.

Among the non-attainment areas are poorly managed public lands choked by oil and gas development, such as Utah’s Uintah Basin. The rural region has air quality as bad as Los Angeles due to decades of fossil fuel development.

Ozone, commonly known as smog, stems from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial activities like oil and gas fracking. The EPA strengthened its ozone standard following an exhaustive scientific review in 2015. According to the agency’s own estimates, meeting the standard will prevent hundreds of deaths, as well as 230,000 asthma attacks in children, each year.

In August, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said he would finalize designations for non-attainment areas, including Uintah Basin and metro areas from coast to coast. When he failed to do so, public health, conservation groups and states filed suit to enforce the Oct. 1 deadline. The Center and other conservation organizations are represented by the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice.

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.

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