Settlement Requires EPA to Update National Standards for
Soot Pollution by End of the Year
Connecticut and coalition of 10 other states win major victory for more than 100 million
Americans whose health is threatened by this air pollution
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will produce updated national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) on particulate matter by December 2012 under a settlement reached with Connecticut and a coalition of 10 other states, Attorney General George Jepsen and state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty announced.
The settlement – lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today – resolves a February 2012 lawsuit brought by the coalition of states after EPA failed to timely resolve its existing air standards for particulate matter, also known as “soot” pollution.
“Soot pollution poses a real health hazard for people in Connecticut and across our country, especially to children and adults with asthma and lung and heart diseases,” Attorney General Jepsen said. “Today’s settlement creates a court-enforceable deadline to put in place new revised standards aimed at improving our air quality nationwide. From both an environmental and a public health viewpoint, this settlement marks a major victory.”
“EPA’s actions to review and update the air quality standards for fine particulate matter were long overdue,” said Commissioner Esty. “I thank the Attorney General and his team for pressing EPA to issue these new standards. The department plans to carefully review EPA’s proposal to ensure it adequately protects both the public health and the natural environment for Connecticut’s citizens.”
Two weeks ago, on May 31, a District Court judge sided with the states and ordered EPA to expedite action on proposing new national soot standards. EPA issued its proposed standards yesterday pursuant to court order, and the settlement announced today commits the agency to the December deadline to finalize these standards.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set NAAQS for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment, including particle pollution, and is required every five years to review and, as warranted, to revise the standards. EPA’s adoption of final standards sets in motion a timetable for states to put in place air pollution reduction measures necessary to attain the new standards.
EPA last revised the NAAQS for soot pollution in 2006.
Soot and other particulate matter pollution – a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion in motor vehicles, power generation, industrial facilities, residential fuel burning and other sources – consists of microscopic particles that can trigger a wide range of adverse health effects. EPA has linked exposure with increased respiratory symptoms (asthma attacks), acute and chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
EPA estimates that more than 100 million Americans have special susceptibility to particle pollution, especially individuals with heart or lung diseases such as asthma, children and older adults. The agency estimates that particle pollution exposure to levels allowed under current standards could result in roughly 10,000 premature deaths per year in 15 urban areas; EPA also found that half of these premature deaths could be avoided if lower, more protective standards were adopted.
In addition to Connecticut, the multi-state coalition includes California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The American Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association are co-plaintiffs in the case after their related lawsuit was consolidated with the state suit.
Assistant Attorneys General Scott Koschwitz, Matthew Levine and Kimberly Massicotte, head of the Environment Department, as well as Associate Attorney General Joseph Rubin, handled this matter for the Attorney General.
Attorney General's Office:
Jaclyn M. Falkowski
Department of Energy & Environmental Protection: