On March 13, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) must finally address the need for stronger air toxics protections across the country. Judge Tanya S. Chutkan found that EPA’s delay of many years to issue these rules violated the law and set prompt deadlines for action. This decision marks a victory for the 9 community-based environmental and public health groups that filed suit to force EPA to fulfill its long-neglected duty to update air toxics standards to safeguard the public.
Exposure to hazardous air pollutants emitted by industries covered by this lawsuit can cause serious human health effects, including reproductive disorders and cancer. Many major sources of industrial air pollution are located in areas where people are already overburdened with environmental contamination.
To protect people’s safety, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to perform reviews of the health and environmental hazards people near major industrial sources face from toxic air pollution and the pollution control developments available. As a result of these rulemakings, EPA must strengthen air standards as required to provide an ample margin of safety to protect public health and make sure no local communities are left behind as pollution reduction methods advance in some parts of the United States. EPA is years overdue in fulfilling its legal duties to protect people from the 20 industrial sources of toxic air pollution covered by this lawsuit, including chemical companies, metals and plastics operations, and municipal landfills.
California Communities Against Toxics, Californians Against Waste Foundation, Coalition For A Safe Environment, Del Amo Action Committee, Desert Citizens Against Pollution, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Neighbors for Clean Air, and Ohio Citizen Action filed this suit in April 2015 against EPA for missing legally required deadlines to protect public health from toxic air pollution. The national environmental law organization Earthjustice represents them.
Now EPA must perform the mandatory Clean Air Act rulemakings on the schedule ordered by the court and update and strengthen the existing emission standards as necessary.
Nick Morales, Lead Attorney at Earthjustice is pleased to have these deadlines in place:
For years, EPA refused to do its job while each day people across the country were forced to breathe hazardous air pollution from industrial operations. Now that the Court has ordered hard deadlines for action, we look forward to urging EPA to strengthen the outdated toxic air pollution limits and require monitoring to reduce the toxic air communities are breathing.