Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 14, 2017

Contact:  Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6405
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 655-3900 x 308

Lawsuit Launched to Fight Delays in Cleaning Up Ozone Pollution in D.C., Philadelphia

WASHINGTON— Conservation and public-health groups filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency today for its failure to assess whether the greater metro areas of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia are meeting clear-air standards for ozone pollution, which causes serious harm to public health, wildlife and ecosystems.

“Ozone pollution kills thousands of Americans, and we're going to force the Trump administration to follow the law and protect public health,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA needs to take commonsense steps now to enforce the Clean Air Act, both to save lives and to protect the environment from the hazard of smog and ozone pollution.”

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

“Every additional day of delay puts more Americans at risk for deadly diseases,” 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.”

People exposed to excess ozone are at risk of reduced lung function, increased respiratory problems like asthma, resulting in increased visits to emergency rooms and greater chance of premature death.

Ozone causes widespread environmental harms. Cumulative ozone exposure can not only stunt the growth of trees and damage leaves but also cause increased susceptibility to disease, damage from insects and harsh weather. Sensitive tree species that are at greatest risk from ozone exposure include black cherry, quaking aspen, ponderosa pine and cottonwood.

Today's notice, sent from the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Environmental Health, demands that the EPA correct violations for air-quality standards set in 2008 in order to establish strong plans to reduce dangerous ozone levels. If the EPA finds that the two cities are failing to meet healthy air-quality standards, they will be designated as “serious” nonattainment areas and required under the Clean Air Act to develop more stringent air-quality implementation plans to reduce ozone pollution.

An EPA study found that Clean Air Act programs to reduce fine particle and ozone pollution prevented more than 160,000 deaths, 130,000 heart attacks and 1.7 million asthma attacks in 2010 alone. For every dollar spent, Americans have received $30 in economic benefits in return.

While protecting the health of Americans, 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 1.2 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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