The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Paul Cort, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2077
Eitan Bencuya, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3047
John Walke, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 289-2406
Mary Havell McGinty, American Lung Association, (202) 715-3459

Federal Court Rules in Favor of Clean Air

Requires EPA to implement strong soot controls


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today released a ruling requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement stronger requirements to clean up particulate matter, also known as "soot," one of the deadliest forms of air pollution.

Rejecting EPA's adoption of a weaker approach, the Court ruled that the public health protections in the Clean Air Act require EPA to use the strictest more stringent cleanup requirements in communities with unhealthful particulate matter levels.

The suit was brought by Earthjustice on behalf of American Lung Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Medical Advocates for Healthy Air.

"Soot pollution is dangerous to kids, seniors, and people with heart and lung problems, and kills tens of thousands of people each year," said Paul Cort, the Earthjustice attorney who argued the case. "This ruling will mean much stronger protections against this deadly pollutant."

Major sources of soot pollution include coal-fired power plants, factories, oil refineries, and diesel engines. The ruling means that more plants will be subject to more protective particulate matter limits in areas that violate health standards. It also will require limits not only on direct emissions of soot, but also on pollutants that transform into particulate matter in the air.

Under the ruling, the most stringent controls will apply to communities that fail to timely attain health standards (within four to six years). Among other things, these areas will have to implement the best available control measures (instead of just reasonably available measures) and achieve pollution cuts of at least five percent per year if they fail to meet standards on time.

"Soot particles are a dangerous mix of toxic metals and chemicals and are released into the air by burning dirty fuels like coal," said Bruce Nilles, Senior Campaign Director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "Today's court decision is a strong step toward ensuring our families have clean, breathable air."

"Few court rulings strike so close to home. This one's as close as your next breath of air," said John Walke, senior attorney and Director of NRDC's Clean Air Program. "Soot kills. Now there will be less of it--in our air, our hearts and our lungs. That means less bronchitis, fewer asthma attacks, fewer heart attacks and fewer strokes. We can thank the court, with every breath we take."

"Cleaning up particle pollution saves lives," said Janice Nolen, Assistant Vice President for the American Lung Association. "A few weeks ago, EPA adopted the strongest, most protective standard for fine particles. Today's decision means that communities around the nation will have better tools to make sure that they can meet that standard and save lives."

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.