Court Asked to Order Deadline for Action on Overdue Smog Standards

Lives and health of millions at stake

(June 19, 2013)

A coalition of public health and environmental groups filed a lawsuit today asking the federal court to set a deadline for the Obama Administration to take action on overdue standards for ozone (or “smog”) pollution.

The lawsuit – filed on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club – comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) missed the legal deadline to complete the review of these standards mandated by the federal Clean Air Act.

“Millions of Americans are being denied the health protection that doctors say is needed, and that the law requires EPA to provide,” said Paul Cort, an attorney with Earthjustice, the public interest group handling the case.  “When the administration fails to follow the laws set out by Congress, it is left to those injured by inaction to ask a court to enforce the law.”

“Ozone is a harmful air pollutant that can inflame the lungs and leave people gasping for breath, and these health effects are especially harmful for children and seniors,” said Elena Craft, PhD, health scientist at EDF. “It is crucial that we move forward with a science-based standard that reduces smog and protects public health.”

The EPA’s science advisors and the nation’s leading medical organizations agree that stronger ozone standards are needed to save lives and prevent sickness. Ozone air pollution causes premature death, asthma attacks and other breathing problems, often sending people to emergency rooms and hospitals due to lung distress. Research now links ozone to increased risk of low birth weight in babies and cardiovascular harm. Children and senior citizens are at special risk, as are people with respiratory and cardiovascular disease. According to EPA estimates, more protective ozone standards could annually save up to 12,000 lives, prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks and hospital visits, and prevent hundreds of thousands of lost school and work days.

“Congress told EPA to finish these reviews every five years for a reason—to keep up with the science,” said Janice Nolen, Assistant Vice President, National Policy, of the American Lung Association.  “Americans want public health protections based on up-to-date science. Given the growing evidence that ozone can kill, delays can be deadly.”

Today’s action seeks a court-ordered deadline for EPA to complete its review of the outdated standards. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to complete its review of the ozone standards last March. Legal action is considered a last resort, but without such a court-ordered deadline, history has demonstrated that delay in the necessary review is likely to continue.

“Once updated and implemented, the EPA’s smog standards will save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks,” said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “But clean air can’t wait. The EPA must stop its dangerous delays and move swiftly to finalize this critical protection.”

“The benefits to our economic and physical health from a more protective smog standard are without question,” said John Walke, Clean Air Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “While polluters continue to rail against health standards with false and disproven arguments, the American people know better. It is past time to adopt stronger health standards that the overwhelming scientific evidence demands.”

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.

About Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. See twitter.com/EnvDefenseFund; facebook.com/EnvDefenseFund

About the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
The Natural Resources Defense Council is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.