For Immediate Release, February 12, 2021

Contact:

Robert Ukeiley, (720) 496-8568, rukeiley@biologicaldiversity.org

Lawsuit Launched to Fight EPA Approval of Pennsylvania’s Flawed, Outdated Plan for Reducing Dangerous Air Pollution From Oil, Methane Gas Industries

PHILADELPHIA— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Pennsylvania’s inadequate, outdated plan to clean up smog from the methane gas industry.

Pennsylvania’s “new” plan is based on technology and guidance from 1983.

“Rubber-stamping weak and outdated measures that fail to control pollution from the methane gas industry is not how we’re going to transition to a clean energy economy,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center. “The EPA needs to ensure it’s requiring the best, most modern technology to control pollution from fossil fuels so the cost of dirty energy pollution is internalized and the economic playing field for clean energy is leveled.”

The EPA has already determined that all of Pennsylvania has ozone pollution, also known as smog, at levels that can trigger ecological harm and human health problems like asthma attacks and even death. The state’s ozone pollution also contributes to similar pollution in downwind states. Every year that ozone pollution continues to violate the national standards up to 390,000 more asthma attacks will occur in children, according to the EPA’s own data.

The oil and methane gas industry is the largest industrial source of emissions from volatile organic compounds that contribute to the formation of smog. 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, according to the EPA. Alarmingly, 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 and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that individuals with asthma are one of the highest risk groups for COVID-19. This contributes to a growing canon of 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 Center for Biological Diversity is represented in this case by Alexa Carreno and Jeremy Mckay of Environmental and Animal Defense and Steve Odendahl of Air Law for All, Ltd. (ALFA).

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.