Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 2, 2015

Contact: Jonathan Evans, (510) 844-7118,

Settlement Reached to Protect Air Quality in North Carolina From Lead Pollution

SAN FRANCISCO— A federal court today approved an agreement between conservation groups and the Environmental Protection Agency establishing a deadline of May 31, 2016 for preparing a plan to protect North Carolinians from lead air pollution. Clean Air Act standards for lead pollution were formalized eight years ago, yet North Carolina and the EPA have failed to develop a plan to make sure the state maintains healthy standards for lead, which pose serious threats to public health and ecosystems.

“Clean air is the primary building block for healthy ecosystems and strong communities,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center. “This agreement helps ensure that North Carolinians will be protected from toxic lead air pollution.”

North Carolina elected officials have become increasingly hostile to federal clean-air laws. Under the leadership of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, North Carolina, along with other states and the coal-mining industry, sued the EPA last month to oppose the Clean Power Plan, which is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas pollution. In 2014 the state legislature passed, and the governor signed, the Regulatory Reform Act (Senate Bill 734), which included a provision to limit local governments in the state from setting air-pollution controls on the burning of coal, gas, oil or wood in home-heating devices. 

“It’s shameful that the elected officials of North Carolina are working to eliminate environmental protections for the citizens of their state,” said Evans. “Clear skies, healthy families and clean ecosystems shouldn’t be bargained away for the next campaign contribution or Tea Party vote.”

The agreement was reached between the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health and the EPA, and approved by a federal judge in California.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set “National Ambient Air Quality Standards” for pollutants such as lead, which causes harm to people, especially sensitive populations such as children, and to ecosystems. Lead, which does not break down in the environment, is an extremely toxic element that threatens human health, especially children’s. It disrupts their development, causing slow growth, development defects and damage to the brain and nervous system. Ecosystems near lead sources experience decreases in biodiversity and ecosystem production, and increases in invasive species. Many scientific studies have also expressed concern about sublethal effects of atmospheric lead on wildlife.

For more on the dangers of lead, read more about the Center’s Get the Lead Out campaign.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and supporters dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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