Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 14, 2018

Contact:  Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568,
Brian Willis, Sierra Club, (202) 675.2386,
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 655-3900 x 308,

Lawsuit Launched to Fight EPA's Pruitt for Illegal Delay in Reducing Asthma-causing Pollution Across Midwest, Florida  

OAKLAND, Calif. Three conservation and public-health groups today sued U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for failing to ensure that Detroit, Indianapolis and other localities that are home to millions of people have effective plans for cleaning up asthma-causing sulfur dioxide air pollution.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, points out that the EPA has already determined that these 17 areas in 10 states have sulfur dioxide pollution at levels high enough to cause human health problems and to harm fish and forests. The polluted areas are in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin.  

Despite those findings, Pruitt has failed to make sure the localities are taking legally required steps to plan for cleaning up the pollution, which is produced primarily by burning coal and oil.

“Pruitt’s unhealthy addiction to fossil fuels is forcing millions of Americans to breathe dirty air,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Current technology allows us to have clean air while saving us money, but the system only works if Pruitt does his job. The Trump administration needs to start protecting kids with asthma from sulfur dioxide pollution.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set national ambient air-quality standards to protect human health, forests, streams, wildlife and crops from pollutants like sulfur oxides, which are produced from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

Once the agency determines an area’s air pollution exceeds the national standard, the law provides deadlines for ensuring there is a plan to clean up that pollution.

“The law requires that Pruitt and the Trump administration act to cut dangerous sulfur dioxide pollution from the air we breathe, but they have ignored those deadlines for protecting the public and are instead turning a blind eye to corporate polluters,” said Sierra Club attorney Zachary Fabish. “Kids and families in some of our country’s most vulnerable communities are getting sick while Pruitt violates the law by not acting, so we are taking him to court so that the safeguards that protect the public are enforced.”

Pruitt’s close relationship with the coal industry was highlighted in a recent New York Times story revealing that a billionaire coal executive gave the EPA chief VIP seats at a University of Kentucky basketball game. 

Measured as sulfur dioxide, sulfur pollution causes a range of public-health and environmental problems. Sulfur oxides contribute to heart and lung diseases and are particularly threatening to children and the elderly.

The EPA’s own updated scientific studies show a link between sulfur oxides and developmental problems in children. Sulfur oxides also contribute to acid rain and haze, damaging lakes, streams and ecosystems throughout the United States and decreasing visibility in national parks.

Beyond Detroit and Indianapolis, the areas where the EPA has failed to make sure proper air-pollution plans are in place include: Indiana’s Morgan County; portions of Daviess and Pike counties, Ind.; Terre Haute, Ind.; Muscatine, Iowa; Missouri’s Jackson and Jefferson counties; Lake County and Muskingum River in Ohio; the Ohio and West Virginia portions of the Steubenville area; Rhinelander, Wis.; and Florida’s Hillsborough and Nassau counties. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 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.

The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization with more than 3 million members and supporters working to safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife, and preserve wild places through public education, lobbying, and litigation.

More press releases