Groups sue EPA over air pollution standards

Groups sue EPA over air pollution standards
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Conservation and public health groups are taking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to court in an attempt to force an update of two air pollution standards.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Environmental Health on Thursday sued the EPA over its handling of sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, two pollutants regulated by federal clean air laws. 

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The groups say the agency has blown through its deadline for updating the federal standards on those pollutants. Their lawsuit looks to compel the EPA to update them faster than the agency is currently planning. 

“There’s no reason to delay stronger protections for millions of Americans suffering from dirty air linked to coal and gas pollution,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. 

“The Clean Air Act saves lives and cleans up our skies, but it only works when there are strict protections in place to hold polluters accountable and protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.” 

The EPA last set standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide — pollutants generated at power plants — in 2010. The agency is required to review and potentially update those standards every five years, but it didn’t release new regulations last year, as it could have. 

In a statement, the groups said the EPA should update the standards to protect public health. 

“Children are especially vulnerable when they breathe in these toxic chemicals, so it’s essential to use the latest science in setting safety standards,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. 

The EPA doesn’t respond to pending litigation against it. But a spokeswoman said the agency plans to propose an update for the nitrogen dioxide standard this November, and release a final rule next summer, with sulfur dioxide standards coming two years later.