After EPA Is Sued, Pruitt Backs Off Plans to Delay Healthier Smog Rules

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After EPA Is Sued, Pruitt Backs Off Plans to Delay Healthier Smog Rules

WASHINGTON - A day after being sued by 15 states and the District of Columbia, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt on Wednesday suddenly reversed course and announced the agency would not delay measures to reduce dangerous ground-level ozone that causes thousands of deaths every year.

Earlier this summer Pruitt said the EPA would not make states meet an Oct. 1 deadline for plans to enforce the smog-reduction standards established in 2015, and that the agency was considering a permanent rollback to a weaker standard.

“It’s disgusting that the Pruitt EPA considered walking away from clean-air measures that will save thousands of lives every year,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “And this battle isn’t over. You can bet that the dinosaurs running the show in D.C. are still planning to do everything in their power to increase our dependence on poisonous fossil fuels like coal.”

Before Pruitt’s decision to delay the new ozone standards, the EPA had been required to decide by Oct. 1 what areas were meeting the more-protective 70-parts-per-billion standards set in 2015. The 2008 standard, now in place, is 75 parts per billion — a standard to which Pruitt had earlier said he was considering returning.

Earlier this summer House Republicans introduced a bill to delay, until 2025, measures to reduce ground-level ozone.

The harm caused by ground-level ozone, or smog, are well documented.

A study published in June in the New England Journal of Medicine found that weak U.S. standards for ground-level ozone and particulate matter contribute directly to thousands of premature deaths each year.

The 13-year study, done by Harvard University scientists, estimates that 1,900 lives could be saved every year if ground-level ozone levels were lowered by just 1 part per billion nationwide.
More than half of the people living in the United States are at risk from the harmful effects of unhealthy air, with disadvantaged communities in poorer or minority areas often suffering the worst from air pollution.

An EPA study found that Clean Air Act programs to reduce ozone pollution prevented more than 4,300 deaths and 3.2 million lost school days in 2010 alone. The Clean Air Act has also helped to keep the U.S. economy healthy by creating jobs, with more than 1.7 million Americans employed in the environmental technology industry helping to keep air clean.

“It’s important to understand that Pruitt didn’t back down because he wanted people to breathe cleaner air,” said Evans. “He backed down only because those of us who care about the long-term health of our children and environment insisted he do so. And we’ll keep insisting every single day this toxic administration is in power.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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