For Immediate Release, January 9, 2014

Contact: Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 318

Lawsuit Launched to Protect People, Wildlife From Toxic Soot Pollution

Failure to Reduce Soot Threatens Alaska, Iowa, Puerto Rico and Washington

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity issued a formal notice of intent today to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce air-quality standards that limit dangerous particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources. The notice asserts that the EPA failed to develop air-quality plans required by the Clean Air Act to reduce these dangerous pollutants in Alaska, Iowa, Puerto Rico and Washington. Soot pollution causes serious health problems for people and wildlife, creates regional haze, and harms the natural environment.  

“The Clean Air Act saves lives and protects ecosystems, but only when there is a plan to attack pollution at its source,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center. “We need the EPA and Obama administration to show the political will to enforce the law and clean up the air breathed by millions of Americans.”

The EPA has failed to develop implementation plans to reduce soot pollution in Alaska, Iowa, Puerto Rico and Washington more than seven years after air-quality standards were set for particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less (in 2006). The burning of fossil fuels to generate heat and power and residential wood burning has led to soot pollution throughout the country. The problems in Fairbanks, Alaska have been so severe that the EPA has proclaimed the city in violation of clean-air standards in an effort to protect public health and the environment.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set nationwide, health-based standards for particulate pollution and sets mandatory deadlines to develop plans to achieve and maintain air-quality standards. The Center’s lawsuit demands that the agency correct these violations in order to set up plans to reduce dangerous soot levels. 

“The science is clear. Soot poisons our air, our lands and waters and us,” said Evans. “The EPA needs to take steps right now to implement the Clean Air Act to save lives and protect our environment.”

Soot, referred to as “particulate matter” by the EPA, is often produced through the burning of fossil fuels and biomass. It is known to cause a range of health problems for people and wildlife, harms plant life, and acidifies water bodies. Particulate matter is made up of tiny particles about 30 times smaller than the width of the average human hair, and can lodge deep in the lungs, posing serious health risks to humans and wildlife.

Toxic soot has been associated with a broad spectrum of harms to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including decreased biodiversity. This widespread pollution also causes regional haze that fouls scenic vistas in cities, national parks and wilderness areas. 

In November 2013 the Center filed a lawsuit to require the EPA to enforce Clean Air Act standards limiting dangerous pollution from tiny airborne particles like soot in California, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Tennessee. The five states had failed to develop approved air-quality plans to reduce soot pollution. That same month the Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the EPA for similar violations in six other states including Arizona, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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