For Immediate Release, September 20, 2019


Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568,
Mike Berkowitz, Sierra Club, 248.345.9808,

Legal Pressure Prompts Trump’s EPA to Ensure Plans Are Made to Reduce Coal-driven Pollution in Baltimore, Eastern Michigan

BALTIMORE In response to legal action by conservation and public-health groups, the Environmental Protection Agency announced today it will ensure plans are in place to clean up harmful sulfur dioxide pollution in Baltimore, Maryland, and St. Clair, Michigan.

The EPA has known for years that St. Clair and Baltimore had levels of coal-driven sulfur dioxide pollution high enough to trigger asthma attacks and harm fish and forests. The Trump administration, however, had refused to act.

Today’s announcement is the result of a lawsuit filed on June 14, 2018 by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health and Sierra Club. Now Michigan and Maryland are each on a strict timeline to get an approved clean-up plan in place or face a federal plan instead.

“The Trump administration’s willingness to allow children to breathe dirty air to appease coal barons is disturbing,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “By going to court, we’re moving closer to the day when the people of eastern Michigan and Baltimore can breathe clean air.”

The lawsuit was triggered by EPA chief Andrew Wheeler’s failure to make sure the localities are taking the legally required steps to plan for cleaning up the air pollution, which is driven primarily by dirty coal emissions.

Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist for Bob Murray, the chief executive officer of one of the nation’s largest coal companies. Murray donated $300,000 to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set air-quality standards to protect human health and the environment, then ensure plans are in place to clean up that pollution to meet clean-air standards.

“The law requires that the Trump administration act to cut dangerous sulfur dioxide pollution from the air we breathe, but it has ignored those deadlines for protecting the public and is instead turning a blind eye to corporate polluters,” said Sierra Club attorney Zachary Fabish. “Kids and families in some of our country’s most vulnerable communities are getting sick while Wheeler violates the law by not acting.”

Measured as sulfur dioxide, sulfur pollution causes a range of public-health and environmental problems. Sulfur oxides trigger asthma attacks and developmental problems in children; contribute to heart and lung diseases and are particularly threatening to the very young and very old. Sulfur oxides also contributes to acid rain and haze, damaging lakes, bays, streams and ecosystems throughout the United States and decreasing visibility in national parks.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 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.

The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization with more than 3 million members and supporters working to safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife, and preserve wild places through public education, lobbying, and litigation.