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For Immediate Release, February 15, 2011

Contact: Kevin Bundy, (415) 436-9682 x 313

Settlement Sets Deadlines for Cleaning up Particulate Air Pollution

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity settled a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today that challenged the EPA’s failure to meet numerous deadlines for limiting dangerous pollution from tiny airborne particles. The settlement sets new deadlines by which the agency must determine whether parts of Alaska, Arizona, Montana, and Nevada have met air-pollution standards and take action to ensure the adequacy of air-quality plans for particulate pollution.

“We’re pleased that the EPA has agreed to make the determinations necessary to ensure the air we breathe is clean and safe,” said Center attorney Kevin Bundy. “For air-quality standards to be effective, we need to know whether they’re being met. This settlement ensures that states and the EPA will do what the Clean Air Act requires.”

The lawsuit identified regions throughout the West where the EPA had failed to make legally required determinations as to whether the Clean Air Act’s standards for particulate matter had been reached. It also challenged the agency’s failure to take direct federal action to clean up the air in parts of Arizona where the state’s plans had been found deficient. While negotiations were underway, the EPA began to clear the backlog of overdue determinations. The settlement sets deadlines for the remaining determinations and for the EPA to address Arizona’s deficient air-quality plans.

“This settlement gets the EPA back on track in addressing the dangers of particulate pollution in communities and regions across the West,” Bundy concluded.

The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. Jackson (N.D. Cal. No. 10-cv-1846 MMC). The law office of Robert Ukeiley represented the Center in litigation and settlement.

Particulate matter, also known as PM-10, is air pollution made up of tiny particles smaller than 10 microns in diameter (about 10 times smaller than the width of the average human hair) that can travel deep into the lungs when breathed, posing health risks that include serious respiratory illness and premature death. Particulate pollution also damages ecosystems and obscures scenic vistas throughout the West, including national parks and wilderness areas. It is one of several “criteria” air pollutants classified as especially dangerous to public health and welfare under the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set nationwide, health- and welfare-based standards for particulate pollution and sets mandatory deadlines for the agency to determine whether states have met the standards. The Act also sets deadlines for the states to develop, and for the EPA to approve, individual plans for meeting the standards.

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