For Immediate Release, November 20, 2007
Brian Nowicki, Center for Biological Diversity, (916) 201-6938 (cell)
John Blair, Valley Watch, (812) 464-5663
Tina Marie Johnson, (859) 661-3758
Robert Ukeiley, legal and technical questions, (859) 200-1325
Court Settlement Requires Bush Administration to Address Air Pollutants:
EPA Agrees to Review Hazards and Regulation of
Nitrogen Oxides and Sulfur Oxide Gases
WASHINGTON, DC— The Bush administration has agreed to a court settlement, finalized November 19th, requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the environmental hazards of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides and revise, as necessary, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for these two dangerous pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
Nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are major air pollutants from coal combustion, motor vehicles, and other sources, and are major contributors to global warming (in the case of nitrous oxide), smog, acid rain, and a variety of human-health problems ranging from asthma to cancer and premature death. The settlement comes as a result of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of public-interest organizations and individuals, challenging EPA’s failure to perform the mandated regular reviews of air-pollution standards, now several years overdue, and seeking to strengthen the standards regulating these pollutants.
“It’s high time our regulations took into account the high costs of these pollutants to human health, agriculture, buildings, and natural places,” said Brian Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Stronger standards are critical to reducing the impacts of global warming and the long list of serious threats these pollutants pose for the environment.”
"These outdated standards have caused premature births and countless illnesses and death in our children. They have also sickened our forests and farmland upon which we depend for food and shelter,” said Tina Marie Johnson, co-plaintiff and resident of Berea, Kentucky. “I am glad that the EPA has agreed to meet these new deadlines. I look forward to standards that reduce the toxic pollution that continues to cause suffering in the most innocent members of our society."
Sulfur dioxide pollution harms human health, economic well-being, and the environment, and is tied to premature deaths, respiratory illnesses, damage to crops and forests, acid rain, and hazy skies. Nitrogen oxides are highly reactive gases emitted primarily through the combustion of fossil fuels that contribute to health and welfare problems such as ozone depletion, global climate change, accumulation of excess nitrates in drinking water, and acidification of soils. Elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide are also linked to asthma attacks and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and four other major air pollutants (particulate matter, ozone, lead, and carbon monoxide). The Act requires EPA to review these standards every five years to determine, based on the latest sound science, if they need to be strengthened or if additional air pollutants need to be controlled to protect human health and welfare. But EPA has not reviewed sulfur or nitrogen oxide standards since 1996, nor changed sulfur standards since 1971.
The case, Center for Biological Diversity v. Stephen Johnson, USEPA, No. 1:05-01814 (LFO), was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity in September 2005 with regard to nitrous oxides and February 2006 with regard to sulfur oxides, in coalition with Valley Watch and three individuals. The settlement was signed Monday morning by U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer.
Under the settlement, EPA has agreed to issue Integrated Science Assessments and final decisions on any revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards pursuant to a detailed schedule that includes a date for each action. The agency will complete all the actions by October 2010.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Tina Marie Johnson is a resident of Berea, Kentucky, and a MACED forestry program assistant.
Valley Watch works to protect the public health and environment of the lower Ohio River Valley.