A federal district court in California on Tuesday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop delaying plans for cleaning up asthma-causing sulfur dioxide pollution in portions of eight states where millions of people live—including Pennsylvania.
The court order covers Pittsburgh, as well as areas in Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin. It settles a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Center for Environmental Health challenging the EPA’s failure to enforce Clean Air Act standards for sulfur dioxide.
The consent decree revolves around the required State Implementation Plan (SIP). GASP made formal comments on the proposed SIP for Allegheny County, which can be viewed here.
The pollutant, which comes mainly from burning fossil fuels, contributes to lung diseases. It is particularly threatening to children and the elderly.
“This court order is an important step forward in the battle to protect children and others with asthma from dangerous sulfur dioxide pollution,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Trump’s absurd promise to bring back coal has failed miserably as the country shifts to cleaner energy sources. But this administration’s sickening addiction to fossil fuels is still forcing millions of Americans to breathe unhealthy air.”
Along with Pittsburgh, the areas where the EPA has failed to make sure proper air pollution plans are in place include: portions of Indiana’s Daviess and Pike counties; Pennsylvania’s Indiana County; Muscatine, Iowa; Marshall, W. Va.; the Muskingum River in Ohio; Rhinelander, Wis.; and Hayden, Ariz.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set national ambient air-quality standards and make sure plans are in place to protect human health, forests, streams, wildlife and crops from pollutants like sulfur oxides, which are produced mainly from the burning of fossil fuels.
Measured as sulfur dioxide, sulfur pollution causes a range of public-health and environmental problems.
The EPA’s own updated scientific studies show a link between sulfur oxides and asthma. Sulfur oxides also contribute to acid rain and haze, damaging lakes, streams and ecosystems throughout the United States and decreasing visibility in national parks.