(WASHINGTON, DC)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and environmental and public health partners today sued EPA for refusing to strengthen air quality limits for small, airborne particles (known as particulate matter). Major sources of particulate matter pollution include industrial facilities, power plants, vehicle tailpipe emissions, and large poultry operations.
Joining CBF in filing suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are American Lung Association, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists.
EPA decided last month not to update particulate matter standards set back in 2012, even though the most up-to-date science shows that the current standard does not sufficiently protect public health. The Clean Air Act requires the standards to “accurately reflect the latest scientific knowledge.”
Stronger particulate matter controls would also benefit the Bay cleanup by reducing emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxides, which cause nitrogen deposition into the Bay and its waterways. Nitrogen is one of the three pollutants that must be reduced to achieve the goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by the 2025 deadline.
EPA’s decision to leave weak particulate matter limits in place also ignored a growing body of evidence that communities of color and low-income communities are exposed to more particulate matter pollution and are disproportionately vulnerable to the harm it can cause than wealthier White communities.
Finally, EPA’s flawed review process for reviewing the current standard repeatedly marginalized scientific expertise and abandoned long-standing practice. For example, EPA arbitrarily disbanded an independent expert panel that previously helped the agency conduct an unbiased, rigorous scientific assessment of the particulate matter safeguards.
In a related action on January 13, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, all located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, joined 12 other states and New York City in filing a similar suit challenging EPA’s decision not to tighten current particulate matter limits.
CBF Staff Litigation Attorney Ariel Solaski made the following statement about the case:
“The Trump EPA’s decision to retain dangerously weak fine particulate matter standards is contrary to the Clean Air Act and the scientific record. It is also the result of a deeply flawed review process that repeatedly marginalized scientific expertise. People living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the effort to restore the health of the Bay will pay a high price for EPA’s failure.
“Strong limits are essential to protecting the health of the more than 18 million people who live and work in the Bay’s 64,000 square-mile watershed. Watershed communities facing environmental injustices, whose members are especially susceptible to particulate matter pollution, will unjustly bear the heaviest burden.
“CBF will fight to reverse EPA’s arbitrary and illegal refusal to strengthen particulate matter standards. The watershed’s most vulnerable residents and the health of the Chesapeake Bay deserve nothing less.”