January 6, 2013

Federal court rules in favor of clean air action

Earth Justice - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today released a ruling requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement stronger requirements to clean up particulate matter, also known as “soot,“ one of the deadliest forms of air pollution.

Rejecting EPA’s adoption of a weaker approach, the Court ruled that the public health protections in the Clean Air Act require EPA to use the strictest more stringent cleanup requirements in communities with unhealthful particulate matter levels.

The suit was brought by Earthjustice on behalf of American Lung Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Medical Advocates for Healthy Air.

Major sources of soot pollution include coal-fired power plants, factories, oil refineries, and diesel engines. The ruling means that more plants will be subject to more protective particulate matter limits in areas that violate health standards. It also will require limits not only on direct emissions of soot, but also on pollutants that transform into particulate matter in the air.

Under the ruling, the most stringent controls will apply to communities that fail to timely attain health standards (within four to six years). Among other things, these areas will have to implement the best available control measures (instead of just reasonably available measures) and achieve pollution cuts of at least five percent per year if they fail to meet standards on time.

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