Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 15, 2018

Contact:  Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568,
Brian Willis, Sierra Club, (202) 675-2386,

Lawsuit Launched Against Trump's EPA for Failing to Protect People From Dangerous Coal Pollution

Millions Across Kentucky, Six Other States at Risk From Harmful Sulfur Dioxide

TUCSON, Ariz. Conservation and public-health groups today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to ensure that seven states have effective plans in place for cleaning up harmful sulfur dioxide air pollution.

The notice points out that the EPA has already determined that 12 areas where millions of people live have coal-driven sulfur dioxide pollution at levels high enough to trigger dangerous asthma attacks and harm fish and forests.

The polluted areas are in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, West Virginia and Kentucky, including Louisville.

“It’s disgusting that coal-loving dinosaurs like Trump are forcing children to breathe dirtier, unhealthy air,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our kids, the elderly and our most imperiled wildlife and fish will pay a steep price for this heartless scheme to prop up dirty, outdated coal.”

Today’s notice was triggered by acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler’s failure to make sure the localities are taking the legally required steps to plan for cleaning up the air pollution, which is driven primarily by dirty coal emissions. Acting Administrator Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist for Bob Murray, the chief executive officer of one of the nation’s largest coal company, who donated $300,000 to President Trump’s inauguration.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set air-quality standards to protect human health and the environment, then ensure plans are in place to clean up that pollution to meet clean-air standards.

“The law requires that the Trump administration act to cut dangerous sulfur dioxide pollution from the air we breathe, but it has ignored those deadlines for protecting the public and is 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 Wheeler violates the law by not acting, so we are taking him to court so that the safeguards that protect the public are enforced.”

Measured as sulfur dioxide, sulfur pollution causes a range of public-health and environmental problems. Sulfur oxides trigger asthma attacks and developmental problems in children; they contribute to heart and lung diseases and are particularly threatening to the very young and very old. 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 Jefferson County, Ky., which contains the city of Louisville, and St. Clair, Mich., the areas where the EPA has failed to make sure proper air-pollution plans are in place include: Hayden and Miami, Ariz.; Allegheny, Beaver, Indiana and Warren, Pa.; Marshall, W.Va.; Alton Township and Williamson County, Ill.; and Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, Md. 

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.

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