(Washington, D.C.)—Today, fourteen health and environmental groups, half of them represented by Earthjustice, challenged ozone standards in a lawsuit in a federal appeals court. The move comes in response to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Trump administration’s last-minute refusal to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, for ozone, and less than a month after Earthjustice sued the EPA over a similar rule affecting particulate matter.
EPA issued the flawed rule in late December, leaving 2015 standards in place. Those standards were set at a level that allowed pollution in our cities that scientific studies show harms vulnerable populations and children’s health. Since 2015, additional scientific evidence confirms that ground-level ozone at levels allowed by EPA is harmful to human health. Last month, Washington, DC’s circuit court struck down rules that relaxed EPA’s implementation of ozone standards and closed important loopholes, ensuring that states will have to take necessary steps to bring polluted areas into compliance with ozone standards.
“The Trump administration corrupted and rushed the scientific review process of this rule as it walked out the door, just so industrial polluters can sit and do nothing for the harm they cause,” said Seth Johnson,?lead Earthjustice attorney on the case. “These outdated ozone standards must be corrected not just for children’s safety and public health, but also because they are critical to addressing the climate crisis.”
While ozone is good as a protective layer in the stratosphere, ground-level ozone causes asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. It is linked to premature deaths, damages plants and forests, and stunts tree and crop growth. Formed by emissions from cars, trucks, and factories, ozone is also a greenhouse gas, and curtailing it is a powerful way to help solve the climate crisis.
“The most recent science shows that ozone standards are simply not strong enough to protect the lungs of our neighborhoods, or the crops and forests we depend on,” the coalition of groups challenging the rule said. “As we fight in court for long overdue safeguards, we call on the Biden administration to listen to the science and take action.”
According to a recent report by the American Lung Association, more than 134 million people live in counties that have dangerous levels of ozone—many of which are disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color.
Earthjustice represents the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, Appalachian Mountain Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club. The Clean Air Task Force represents the Clean Air Council, Conservation Law Foundation, and Natural Resources Council of Maine. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environmental Law & Policy Center have also signed on to the challenge. The suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.