| NEWS RELEASE
Citizen Suit Filed to Protect Clean Air from Sulfur Dioxide Pollution, Reign in Bush Administration Foot-Dragging
For Immediate Release: February 6, 2005
Washington, DC – Conservation groups and citizens from across the country today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to strengthen pollution limits on sulfur dioxide to protect clean air. 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. The groups filed a similar lawsuit in September 2005 over limits on nitrogen oxide emissions, which contribute to global climate change, increased toxic pollutant levels and ozone layer depletion.
“Our health, our communities and our natural places are in danger because of woefully inadequate limits on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). “We have a right to clean, breathable air and meaningful limits on harmful pollutants – today’s lawsuit aims to make that happen.”
Sulfur dioxide is released primarily from coal-fired power plants, which are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all sulfur dioxide pollution in the United States. Sulfur dioxide contributes to respiratory problems, particularly for children and the elderly, and aggravates heart and lung diseases. It also plays a role in the formation of acid rain, which damages trees, crops and historical buildings. Sulfur dioxide is a component of haze, which impairs visibility in cities and many National Parks (see www.epa.gov/air/urbanair/so2/index.html).
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, the 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. However, EPA has not reviewed sulfur or nitrogen oxide standards since 1996, nor changed sulfur standards since 1971.
“Like sulfur dioxide, the EPA’s foot-dragging stinks,” said Jeremy Nichols, a Denver resident and father of a three year old. “With our health and welfare on the line, the last thing the EPA should be doing is avoiding its responsibility to clean air.”
“The EPA’s current sulfur and nitrogen pollution limits are as outdated as the 8-track player,” said Peter Galvin, Conservation Director of CBD. “We deserve stronger standards to protect our communities and our environment.”
Extensive scientific evidence has emerged since 1996 concerning the detrimental effects of nitrogen oxides at levels allowed by the current standards, and a wealth of evidence indicates the 1971 sulfur dioxide standards are inadequate to protect the environment and human health. For example:
Under the Clean Air Act, citizens have the right to file suit in federal court to protect clean air. Today’s lawsuit was filed in the Washington, D.C U.S. District Court by the Center for Biological Diversity; Valley Watch, Inc. of the Lower Ohio Valley; Preston Forsythe of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky; Tina Johnson of Berea, Kentucky; and Jeremy Nichols of Denver, Colorado.
More Information Regarding Sulfur Dioxide Ambient Air Quality Standards: