Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 1, 2021


Robert Ukeiley, (720) 496-8568,

Lawsuit Challenges EPA’s Approval of Pennsylvania’s Flawed Plan for Reducing Asthma-Causing Smog From 8 Large Polluters

PHILADELPHIA— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Pennsylvania’s plan to clean up smog from eight industrial polluters, including a fracked gas facility.

Some areas of Pennsylvania currently violate standards for ozone pollution, also known as smog, at levels that can trigger ecological harm and human health problems like asthma attacks and even death.

The EPA-approved plan to reduce that pollution at these facilities is flawed because it relies on outdated technology, such as the practice of flaring off fossil fuels, a technique that creates more air pollution.

“An air pollution ‘solution’ that creates more air pollution is no solution at all,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center. “The EPA needs to move from the 18th century practice of burning things to try to get rid of them to a 21st century clean energy economy where we simply stop creating pollution in the first place.”

The Clean Air Act requires that the EPA ensure use of the best-available technology to meet the act’s standards for protecting public health and the environment.

In this case the EPA failed to show that burning off fossil fuels won’t result in another public health threat to communities suffering from air pollution.

“The EPA knows that outdated technology doesn’t live up to the public health requirements of the Clean Air Act,” said Ukeiley. “In approving this deeply flawed plan to reduce oil and gas pollution, the agency ignored the additional risk to Pennsylvanians.”

U.S. ozone pollution continues to violate the national standards, leading to 390,000 more asthma attacks in children each year.

Human exposure to smog can increase the frequency of asthma attacks, make the lungs more susceptible to infection, inflame and damage airways, make it more difficult to breathe, and aggravate various lung diseases like emphysema, asthma and bronchitis. These effects have been found in healthy individuals but are more serious in vulnerable populations and among people with underlying health conditions.

Exposure to smog pollution leads to increased visits to emergency rooms, missed school and work days, increased medication use and even deaths. The EPA found that places with elevated concentrations of ozone and long-term exposure to ozone are not only linked to the aggravation of asthma but can cause it to develop.

Smog exposure can also worsen the effects of COVID-19. The World Health Organization has determined that individuals with asthma are one of the highest risk groups for COVID-19. This contributes to growing evidence that people who live in areas with polluted air have an increased likelihood of experiencing more severe cases of COVID-19.

Ozone pollution also harms the natural environment. The EPA has found that the effects of ozone on plants can damage entire ecosystems, including through the loss of species diversity and decreased habitat quality.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. The Center for Biological Diversity is represented in this case by Alexa Carreno and Jeremy Mckay of Environmental and Animal Defense.

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.

center locations