EPA Withdraws Unlawful Attempt to Delay the Implementation of America’s Health-Based Smog Standard

In response to legal action taken by states, public health associations, community organizations, and environmental organizations including Environmental Defense Fund, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt withdrew his unlawful delay that postponed the implementation of our nation’s health-based smog standard.

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unlawfully delayed carrying out basic clean air protections against smog – protections that will ensure healthier lives for all Americans, especially children,” said EDF Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal. “As he has before, Administrator Pruitt took an action that presented a clear and present danger to public health, and he did it without public input and without consideration of the consequences. While we welcome this corrective action, we are deeply concerned about the threat that Administrator Pruitt’s actions present to the fundamental right to clean, healthy air guaranteed by our nation’s bipartisan and time-tested clean air laws. ”

On June 28, Administrator Pruitt published an action delaying by one year the identification of areas out of compliance with the national health-based standard for ground-level ozone – commonly called smog. Tonight that action has officially been withdrawn.

The identification of areas that are out of compliance with the smog standard is essential for securing Americans’ right to know whether their air is safe to breathe. This formal identification of areas is also crucial for triggering state action to put solutions in place to restore healthy air.

Smog is associated with premature deaths, hospitalizations, asthma attacks and long-term lung damage. Children, the elderly, people with respiratory disease, and those working and active outside are especially vulnerable.

EPA estimates that when our nation’s health-based smog standard is implemented it will prevent:

  • Up to 660 premature deaths each year
  • 230,000 asthma attacks in children each year
  • 160,000 days when kids miss school each year
  • 28,000 missed work days each year
  • 630 asthma-related emergency room visits each year
  • 340 cases of acute bronchitis among children each year

Common sense solutions are available to address this dangerous pollution. In fact, Administrator Pruitt has solutions that are pending before him right now. For instance, Maryland has submitted a “good neighbor” petition urging Administrator Pruitt to address the pollution that is blowing across the state’s borders from 36 coal-fired power units that are upwind of Maryland. The petition asks Administrator Pruitt to require that those units simply operate the modern pollution controls that they have already installed but that they are not fully using. Administrator Pruitt has failed to take action, and Maryland recently filed a notice of intent to sue.

A broad coalition took legal action against Administrator Pruitt’s unlawful attempt to delay implementing the smog standard. The coalition includes: the states of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, and Washington D.C; public health groups American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society, Physicians for Social Responsibility; and community and environmental advocates West Harlem Environmental Action, Appalachian Mountain Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Ohio Environmental Council, Clean Air Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Air Task Force, Earthjustice, and Sierra Club – along with Environmental Defense Fund.

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