Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 25, 2021


Robert Ukeiley, (720) 496-8568,

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Endangered Wildlife, Plants From Dangerous Smog

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to assess harms to endangered plants and animals when determining the national air pollution standard for smog.

The lawsuit seeks to ensure that the EPA consults with the expert agencies responsible for wildlife and plant protection to ensure its action does not drive any endangered species extinct.

Today’s suit is similar to the lawsuit the Center filed earlier this month regarding the air pollution standard for soot, or particulate matter. The two lawsuits are the first seeking to force the EPA to consider threats to endangered species when establishing safe thresholds for air pollution.

“It really should come as no surprise that the science shows plants and animals, especially those on the brink of extinction, need clean air,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center. “By making sure our clean-air standards are actually protecting our most endangered species, the EPA will be taking a vital step in improving air quality for everyone, especially the millions of people suffering from chronic health challenges like asthma and heart disease.”

Smog, also called ground-level ozone, is a known threat to imperiled plants and wildlife. Research has linked it to harm in numerous endangered species, including whooping cranes and all the other 102 bird species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Yet despite its legal mandate to consider the impacts of agency actions on endangered species, the EPA has refused to consider how ozone might affect these species.

In addition to directly limiting damage to lungs, controlling smog also reduces acid rain and excess nitrogen in the soil. Even when these don’t directly harm animals, they can harm the plants they rely on, as is the case for the rapidly disappearing monarch butterfly.

Smog mainly comes from the mining, drilling and burning of coal, oil and methane gas as well as from industrial agriculture, which heavily relies on fossil fuel inputs. Shifting off fossil fuel use is the best way to end dangerous levels of smog in the air we breathe, but the EPA’s standard for smog does not advance this change.

Today’s lawsuit was filed in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

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