Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 10, 2015

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

Settlement Forces EPA Decision on Plans to Reduce Soot Pollution in Iowa, Puerto Rico

Agreement Helps Protect Public Health, Clean Skies

WASHINGTON— A federal court in Washington, D.C. set deadlines Wednesday for the Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether plans in Iowa and Puerto Rico 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 sources of soot and smoke in Iowa and Puerto Rico are doing enough to maintain safe air-quality levels.

“The Clean Air Act saves lives, protects ecosystems and reduces haze from toxic soot pollution,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center. “This decision will help save lives and protect our environment from dirty fossil fuel pollution.”

The burning of fossil fuels to generate power and drive automobiles has led to soot pollution throughout the country. Even though improved air-quality standards were set for soot in 2006, Iowa, Puerto Rico and the EPA have failed to develop the required plans under the Clean Air Act to assure adequate safeguards are in place to monitor dangerous soot pollution and maintain safe air-quality levels. 

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set nationwide, health-based standards for soot and sets mandatory deadlines to develop plans to achieve and maintain air-quality standards. Under the terms of the agreement a plan must be developed and approved by Sept. 30, 2016 for Iowa and April 1, 2016 for Puerto Rico.

“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, but without binding deadlines the political will to cut toxic soot pollution falters.”

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 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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