Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 3, 2017

Contact: Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 536-9351,

Lawsuit Challenges EPA Chief Scott Pruitt to Keep D.C., Philadelphia on Track to Clean Air

WASHINGTON— Environmental and public-health groups filed a lawsuit today against Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for his failure to finalize deadlines by which the District of Columbia and Philadelphia must meet 2008 clear-air standards to control smog. Smog — also known as ground-level ozone pollution — poses serious threats to public health, wildlife and ecosystems.

“Every day Scott Pruitt delays cleaning up the air will result in more people dying from smog-induced asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Pruitt has a history of fighting common sense rules to protect the air we breathe. But clean air is not an option. It's the law.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set “national ambient air quality standards” for pollutants such as ozone. In 2008 the agency set clean-air standards for ozone. But more than eight years later it has failed to finalize deadlines to ensure that Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia have reduced ozone pollution to healthy levels.

The EPA is supposed to determine by late this year which cities across the country meet a more protective smog standard put in place in 2015. But lawyers for the EPA told an appeals court earlier this month the agency is now considering simply rolling back the new standard and returning to the 2008 benchmark moving forward.

Pruitt has a history of obstructing environmental laws on behalf of industry. In response to a formal ethics complaint by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Oklahoma Bar Association has opened an investigation into whether Pruitt lied to Congress, while under oath, about his connections to the oil and gas industry.

As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued to block the updated 2015 ozone standards, which reduce the threshold to 70 parts per billion to better protect public health. The 2008 standard is 75 parts per billion.

Pruitt sued the agency he now heads 14 times in an attempt to roll back protections for clean water, clean air and climate pollution.

“Ozone pollution leads to the needless deaths of thousands of people,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “We're going to fight the Trump administration to ensure clean air for all American children and families.”

Today's lawsuit, brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Environmental Health, demands that the EPA finalize findings that Philadelphia and Washington D.C. have reduced ozone levels.

People exposed to excess ozone are at risk of reduced lung function and increased respiratory problems like asthma, increasing emergency room visits, premature deaths, and reproductive damage. Cumulative ozone exposure can not only stunt the growth of trees and damage leaves but also causes increased susceptibility to disease, damage from insects and harsh weather.

An EPA study found that Clean Air Act programs to reduce ozone pollution prevented more than 4,300 deaths, tens of thousands of heart attacks and 3.2 million lost school days in 2010 alone. The Clean Air Act has also 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 1.3 million members and supporters 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.

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