Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 15, 2014

Contact: Jonathan Evans, (415) 436-9682 x 318

Settlement Forces EPA Decision on Plans to Reduce Soot Pollution in California, Alaska

Agreement Could Speed Cleanup of Skies in Los Angeles, Fairbanks

OAKLAND, Calif.— A federal court in Oakland set deadlines late yesterday for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether plans in California and Alaska meet Clean Air Act standards limiting dangerous pollution from tiny airborne particles like soot. The court-approved settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the EPA relates to whether new sources of soot and smoke in metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and Fairbanks are doing enough to reduce and offset their pollution.

“The science is clear: Soot poisons our skies, our bodies and the world we live in,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center. “This agreement helps ensure that new polluters are doing everything possible to reduce pollution in communities that are already suffering from gross air-quality violations, including both Los Angeles and Fairbanks.”

Soot, referred to as “particulate matter” by the EPA, is known to cause a range of health problems for people and wildlife. It fills the air with haze, 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, which can lodge deep in the lungs, posing serious health risks to humans and wildlife.

A range of toxic soot particles 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. 

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set nationwide, health-based standards for particulate pollution and sets mandatory deadlines for the states to develop, and for EPA to approve, specific plans for meeting the standards. Los Angeles and Fairbanks are currently violating air-quality standards for soot pollution. 

Under the terms of settlement, the EPA must decide whether the plans meet federal standards for achieving the lowest achievable emission rate, establishing pollution offsets, and providing for public involvement. EPA has until Dec. 31 to make a decision for the Fairbanks area and until April 15, 2015 to make a decision for the Los Angeles-South Coast air basin.

“The Clean Air Act saves lives, protects ecosystems, and reduces haze from toxic soot pollution,” said Evans. “EPA’s decision will take a valuable step towards saving lives and protecting our environment.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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