Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 24, 2020


Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568,
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (541) 645-2626,
John Brooks, CFROG, (805) 794-0282,

Lawsuit Challenges EPA’s Failure to Clean Up Ventura County Smog

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif.— Conservation groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency today for failing to require reductions of asthma-causing smog pollution in California’s Ventura County, which is home to more than 850,000 people.

The lawsuit calls for the EPA to make sure the plan to reduce smog in the county contains a realistic backup plan in case the pollution does not decrease as hoped for.

“Smog causes terrible health problems like asthma, and it can even kill people,” said Robert Ukeiley, an environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re going to court to make sure that the people in Ventura county are guaranteed the clean air they need to survive and thrive.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. It seeks to overturn the EPA’s decision that Ventura County’s smog cleanup plan is adequate. The plan lacks meaningful contingency measures to protect people should the government’s predictions about future pollution levels turn out to be incorrect.

People exposed to excess ground-level ozone, the principle pollutant in smog, can experience reduced lung function and increased respiratory problems like asthma attacks, causing increased visits to emergency rooms and even premature death.

Several studies have shown that air pollution also increases the risk of death from COVID-19. One very recent study determined that high smog levels contributed to the extremely high numbers of COVID-19 deaths in northern Italy.

“COVID-19 re-emphasizes that smog isn’t something to mess around with and simply hope for the best,” said Caroline Cox, a senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health. “People’s health and very lives depend on ensuring that smog levels decrease under all possible scenarios.”

“A cleaner planet starts at home,” said John Brooks, president of Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG). “There must be a real plan with backup provisions to reach clean air goals.”

An EPA study in 2015 estimated that Clean Air Act programs that reduce ozone pollution would prevent more than 880 premature deaths and 390,000 asthma attacks in children alone. The agency also estimates that the net economic benefit of fully implementing the current ozone standard would be as much as $5.9 billion.

Beyond the human health concerns, ozone pollution also harms wildlife and plants, including commercial crops. Ozone hurts forests by increasing forest fires, disease and insect infestations. Sensitive species at risk from ozone exposure include ponderosa pines and California condors.

The conservation groups are represented by Alexa Carreno and Jeremy Mckay of Environmental and Animal Defense and Steve Odendahl of Air Law for All, Ltd.

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.

Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas (CFROG) is the full time environmental watchdog of Ventura County.

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