Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 24, 2015

Contact: Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 318

Lawsuit Filed to Protect People, Wildlife From Toxic Soot Pollution

Toxic Soot Threatens Iowa, Puerto Rico and Washington

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Environmental Protection Agency today for failing to enforce air-quality standards that limit dangerous particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants, cars and other sources. Soot pollution causes serious health problems for people and wildlife, creates regional haze, and harms the environment. Today’s lawsuit seeks to force the EPA to develop mandated air-quality plans to ensure that Iowa, Puerto Rico and Washington meet clean-air standards.

“The Clean Air Act has saved millions of lives and cleared our skies of the most toxic soot pollution, but the job isn’t done,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center. “We need the EPA and the Obama administration to take these necessary actions to put us on the path to a cleaner, healthier future.” 

The EPA has failed to develop implementation plans to reduce soot pollution in Iowa, Puerto Rico and Washington more than eight years after air-quality standards were set for particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in 2006. The burning of fossil fuels to generate power and drive automobiles has led to soot pollution throughout the country.

“The science is clear. Soot poisons our air, our lands and waters, and us,” said Evans. “We have the ability to make the cuts needed to make us all safer. We just need the EPA to ensure it happens.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set nationwide, health-based standards for particulate pollution and sets mandatory deadlines to develop plans to achieve and maintain air-quality standards. The Center’s lawsuit demands that the agency correct these violations in order to set up plans to reduce dangerous soot levels. 

Soot, referred to as “particulate matter” by the EPA, is often produced through the burning of fossil fuels. Particulate matter is made up of tiny particles about 30 times smaller than the width of the average human hair and can lodge deep in the lungs. It causes a range of health problems for people and wildlife, results in regional haze, harms plants and acidifies water bodies.

In October 2014 the Center reached an agreement with the EPA to enforce Clean Air Act standards limiting dangerous pollution from tiny airborne particles like soot in Los Angeles, Calif. and Fairbanks, Alaska. Since that time both California and Alaska have submitted plans to reduce soot pollution.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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