Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 9, 2021


Robert Ukeiley, (720) 496-8568,

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Endangered Wildlife, Plants From Dangerous Soot

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

This suit, which is the first of its kind, seeks to ensure that the EPA consults with agencies responsible for wildlife and plant protection to ensure its action does not drive any endangered species to extinction.

Soot, also known as fine particulate matter, is a known threat to imperiled wildlife. Research has linked it to harm in numerous endangered species, including whooping cranes, desert tortoises and small mammals like the critically imperiled Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. And yet despite its legal mandate to consider the impacts of agency actions on endangered species, the EPA refused to consider how soot might affect these species.

“The science is very clear that soot may cause devastating harm to vulnerable plants and animals,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center. “The EPA ignored the law when it failed to make sure soot in our air and water won’t drive endangered species to extinction, and we’re going to hold it accountable.”

Soot leads to acid rain and excess nitrogen in the soil. Even when this doesn’t directly harm animals, it can harm the plants they rely on, as could be the case for the Quino checkerspot butterfly.

Soot mainly comes from the mining, drilling and burning of coal, oil and methane gas. Because soot, which is less than 1/30th the size of a single human hair, does not normally exist in nature, animals have not evolved any protective measures against it. Transitioning away from fossil fuel use is the best way to end dangerous levels of soot in our skies, but the EPA’s standard for soot 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.

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