Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 12, 2022

Contact:

Kylah Staley, Center for Biological Diversity, (626) 736-0587, kstaley@biologicaldiversity.org
Kaya Allan Sugerman, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 740-9384, kaya@ceh.org

Legal Agreement Requires EPA to Set New Limits on Soot, Sulfur, Nitrogen Air Pollution

OAKLAND, Calif.— A federal judge approved a legal agreement today requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to update measures protecting the environment from soot, sulfur and nitrogen air pollution by Dec. 10, 2024.

“Under this agreement, the EPA can no longer skirt its duty to address the vast ecological harms caused by soot, sulfur and nitrogen pollution,” said Kylah Staley, a legal fellow at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This agreement requires the agency to do the bare minimum, which is to comply with the Clean Air Act’s very reasonable requirements for reducing the environmental damage caused by these dangerous air pollutants.”

The Clean Air Act requires the agency to review its air-pollution standards every five years to account for updated research revealing the latest threats and risks to the environment, including waterways, wildlife, crops and visibility. The Act has separate requirements to protect public health.

New standards for sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides were due in 2017; new standards for soot, known as particulate matter, were due in 2018.

“When biodiversity suffers, we all suffer,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, the Center for Environmental Health’s director of illegal toxic threats. “Human well-being is intrinsically linked to the health of our surrounding ecosystems, which are overburdened by harmful pollution that EPA has a duty to address.”

Sulfur, nitrogen and soot pollution cause a range of environmental harms. Sulfur pollution is primarily caused by burning coal. It contributes to acid rain, threatening vulnerable aquatic plants and wildlife, and increases plant mortality and reproductive harm on land.

Acidification of aquatic ecosystems harms endangered whooping cranes, for example, by reducing their preferred prey, such as aquatic insects, crayfish and frogs.

Nitrogen oxides are produced by burning fossil fuels and contribute to ozone formation, acid rain, nutrient pollution and poor visibility. Nutrient pollution increases harmful algae growth in aquatic ecosystems, decreasing life-sustaining levels of oxygen in waterbodies. Nutrient pollution in groundwater can also contaminate drinking water.

Soot pollution is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and fracking. Reduced visibility and haze are primarily caused by soot, which damages forests and crops by reducing nutrients in soil.

Today’s agreement, between the EPA and the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Environmental Health, was approved by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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.

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