For Immediate Release, February 24, 2020


Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568,
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 655-3900,

Court Orders Trump EPA to Rein in Dangerous Particulate Pollution in Arizona

Legal Victory Will Improve Air Quality for 7 Million Arizona Residents

PHOENIX – A federal district court today ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to stop delaying plans to clean up soot and other asthma-causing particulate matter pollution throughout Arizona.

Today’s court order was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland. The order covers the entire state, which is home to more than 7 million people. Under the agreement, the EPA must either approve a state-created plan or create its own plan for reducing particulate pollution across Arizona by June 2021.

The legal agreement follows a March 2019 lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Environmental Health challenging the EPA’s failure to enforce Clean Air Act standards for harmful particulate matter pollution.

“The people of Arizona deserve to breathe clean, healthy air and this legal victory gets us an important step closer,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “And amid our escalating wildlife extinction crisis, it will also benefit many of the region’s plants and animals.”

Fine particulate matter air pollution refers to tiny airborne particles, such as soot, which lodge deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. The EPA’s own assessment links fine particulate matter exposure to asthma and other respiratory diseases, heart disease and premature deaths. There is no safe level of exposure.

Plants and animals are also at risk. Studies have shown that air pollution, including soot, causes respiratory distress and can lead to respiratory infections in birds. Ponderosa pines, which serve as important habitat for endangered species such as bighorn sheep and cougars, are particularly sensitive to smog pollution. The pollution can stunt growth and increase the risk from disease, weather and insects, according to the EPA.

“Finally, the EPA will be forced to do its job to protect human health and the environment from these dangerous pollutants,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “Every day of their delay has put more lives at risk.”

An EPA study found that Clean Air Act programs to reduce fine particle matter and ozone pollution prevented more than 160,000 deaths, 130,000 heart attacks and 1.7 million asthma attacks in 2010 alone.

Particulate matter like soot is produced when cars, power plants and other industrial facilities burn fossil fuels.

Industrial factory farms also create particulate pollution when they dispose of large quantities of manure by spraying it into the air, where it can spread antibiotics and dangerous antibiotic-resistant genes.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 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.