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WildEarth Guardians Leads the Charge Against Smog

September 13, 2011
Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
WildEarth Guardians Leads the Charge Against Smog

New Lawsuits to Target Failure of Obama Administration to Protect Clean Air
Contact: Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303

Denver—Seeking swiftsmog clean up throughout the nation, WildEarth Guardians today put theEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA) on notice that it intends tofile suit to ensure the Agency is protecting clean air and public health fromground-level ozone. The notice isone of three efforts spearheaded by WildEarth Guardians to combat smognationwide.

“The EPA is illegally denying people clean, breathable airnationwide, in turn denying our society billions in health benefits,” saidJeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarthGuardians. “Our aim is to give newhope for public health and prosperity in this country.”

Guardians seeks to compel the EPA to find that states havefailed to submit plans to clean up ground-level ozone, the key ingredient ofsmog, in order to meet national standards adopted on March 12, 2008. Formed when sunlight reacts with airpollution from smokestacks, tailpipes, and oil and gas drilling, ground-levelozone is linked to a number of adverse health effects, including asthmaattacks, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and premature death.

Under the Clean Air Act, states must submit plans to the EPAto ensure air pollution is kept in check to meet national standards. Such plans must be submitted withinthree years of the adoption of new standards. If the plans aren’t submitted, EPA has to make a “finding offailure to submit,” which triggers a two-year clock during which the Agencymust develop a federal plan or fully approve state plans. Unfortunately, more than three yearsafter the 2008 ozone standards were adopted, states have yet to submit theseplans and EPA has yet to make a “finding of failure to submit.”

The notice comes on the heels of President Obama derailingthe EPA’s efforts to strengthen nationwide limits on ground-level ozone, thekey ingredient of smog. The EPAadopted ozone standards in 2008 that, while stronger than standards previouslyadopted in 1997, were found to lack scientific justification. In 2010, current EPA Administrator LisaJackson proposed to strengthen the 2008 standards. However, on September 2, 2011, President Obama intervenedpolitically and directed the Administrator to abandon her plans.

Although the President’s decision denies clean, breathableair for millions, particularly in the American West,the decision also means that the 2008 standards remain in effect and the besthope for protecting people from smog.

Today’s notice is one of three legal efforts undertaken by WildEarthGuardians to make sure that in the wake of the President’s decision, the EPA isat least held accountable to ensuring the 2008 standards are met throughout theUnited States.

On August 24, 2011, WildEarth Guardians filed suitin federal court against the EPA to compel the Agency to officially designateareas that are in violation of the 2008 ozone standards. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA wasrequired to make these designations by March 12, 2011. The overdue designations will spurmuch-needed clean ups of dirty air areas nationwide.

And on September 8, 2011, WildEarth Guardians put the EPA onnotice of another impending lawsuit to compel the EPA to promulgate rulesto prevent significant deterioration of air quality from ground-level ozone. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA wasrequired to promulgate these rules by March 12, 2010, meaning they are longoverdue.

“The 2008 standards may not go far enough, but it’ssenseless to stall their implementation while political games are played,” saidNichols. “There’s real people atstake here, not bargaining chips. It’s time to put clean air first.”

Combined, the three legal efforts aim to keep the EPA ontrack to curb ground-level ozone pollution even as the Agency may ultimatelyrevise the standards at some point.

Under the Clean Air Act, citizens can file suit in federalcourt against the EPA to enforce deadlines, but first have to provide 60 daysof notice. If a resolution cannotbe reached after 60 days, WildEarth Guardians plans to file suit to ensure theEPA makes its “finding of failure to submit.”

WildEarth Guardians is a New Mexico-based nonprofitenvironmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring wildlife, wildplaces, and wild rivers in the American West and beyond. Through its Climate and Energy Program,Guardians seeks to address the impacts of global warming by advancing cleanenergy solutions.


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“The EPA is illegally denying people clean, breathable air nationwide, in turn denying our society billions in health benefits,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Our aim is to give new hope for public health and prosperity in this country.”