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For Immediate Release, March 21, 2012

Contact: Kassie Siegel, (951) 961-7972

EPA Refuses to Take Action Against Acid Rain, Acid Deposition

Agency Rejects Scientific Advisory Committee's Recommendation to
Strengthen Pollution Standard to Safeguard Wildlife and Environment

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it will not improve a critically important rule to protect the public from the ongoing harmful impacts of the acid rain pollutants nitrous oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx). The EPA’s review of the existing standard for these pollutants and the deadline for a final decision on whether to update it were required under the terms of a settlement agreement in a case brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies in 2005.

“EPA staff and the Scientific Advisory Committee proposed new and protective standards that had been years in the making and would have been an elegant solution to the serious, ongoing harm being inflicted by acid rain,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The EPA is wrong to reject the advice of its own scientific advisors, and wrong to continue many years of unacceptable delay in addressing this danger.”

In today’s decision, the EPA admitted that the current standard is inadequate to protect against ongoing acid deposition in many of the nation’s lakes, streams, estuaries and sensitive terrestrial habitats. In fact, the EPA announced in 1998 that harm from these pollutants was ongoing, but cited scientific complexity and uncertainty as reasons for inaction and pledged to collect the information needed. In response, EPA staff scientists developed an improved and more protective standard that addresses both harmful pollutants and varying levels of acid sensitivity in different ecosystems. The Scientific Advisory Committee recommended that the EPA add a new, more protective standard based on this approach.

But in today’s decision, the EPA rejected the scientific recommendations and announced it will retain the existing, admittedly inadequate standard.

The EPA has acknowledged the ongoing harm from acid deposition, including negative ecosystem effects in many estuaries, impairing fish production and human activities such as swimming, boating and tourism; reduced growth rates in a number of fish species, such as salmon and trout, attributed to acid stress; declines in species richness; and harm to species at the base of the food chain. Acid deposition on sensitive terrestrial ecosystems also contributes to decline in native and imperiled land species.

Click here for the EPA’s Fact Sheet: Final Revisions to the Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Oxides of Nitrogen and Sulfur.

Click here for the final rule issued today for the secondary national ambient air quality standards for oxides of nitrogen and sulfur.

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