Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 2, 2016

Contact: Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118

Settlement Forces EPA Decision on Plans to Reduce Soot Pollution in
California, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Utah

OAKLAND, Calif. — A federal court in Oakland today said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must decide within a year whether plans in five western states meet Clean Air Act standards limiting dangerous pollution from tiny airborne particles like soot. The court-approved settlement between conservation and public health groups and the EPA helps ensure that communities in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Utah are implementing air quality plans that meet clean air standards to reduce soot pollution, a health hazard for people and wildlife.

“The Clean Air Act works to protect us from toxic soot that poisons our air, our lands and waters, and our health,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This agreement helps ensure that we establish sound blueprints throughout the western United States to clean up our skies from the scourge of soot pollution.” 

Soot, referred to as “particulate matter” by the EPA, causes serious health problems for people and wildlife, creates regional haze, and harms the environment. The burning of fossil fuels to generate power and drive automobiles has led to soot pollution throughout the country. 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. In addition to causing a range of health problems for people and wildlife, it can also acidify water bodies, which harms aquatic life and water quality.

“Soot is deadly, and the EPA has acknowledged that soot pollution is linked to premature death, heart attacks and strokes, and childhood asthma and bronchitis,” said Caroline Cox of the Center for Environmental Health. “People can now breathe easier knowing that a plan will be in place for healthier air in their communities.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set nationwide, health and public welfare-based standards for particulate pollution and sets mandatory deadlines to develop plans to achieve and maintain air quality standards. The settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Neighbors for Clean Air and the EPA helps ensure plans to reduce dangerous soot levels are established and enforceable.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Center for Environmental Health works with parents, communities, businesses, workers, and government to protect children and families from toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods.

Neighbors for Clean Air works to create a healthier Oregon through the reduction of air pollution.

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