Three public health and conservation groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, for failing to ensure that parts of Maryland and Michigan have effective plans for cleaning up sulfur dioxide air pollution.
Areas affected by the EPA’s failures include Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County in Maryland, as well as parts of Metro Detroit in Michigan.
These areas, which are home to nearly 1.3 million people, have sulfur dioxide pollution at levels high enough to trigger ecological harm and human health problems.
“The EPA’s illegal delay in cleaning up this dangerous air pollution not only endangers the health of thousands of people but directly encourages the ongoing use of dirty coal and oil,” said Robert Ukeiley, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Foot-dragging on requiring coal-burning power plants to clean up their act isn’t going to get us the rapid transition to the renewable energy economy that President Biden’s pledging.”
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set national ambient air-quality standards to protect people and the environment from pollutants like sulfur oxides, which are mainly produced from the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
When those standards are violated, the EPA must ensure that states have valid plans in place to clean up the pollution.
Sulfur dioxide causes a range of public health and environmental problems. It contributes to heart and lung diseases and is particularly threatening to children and the elderly. The EPA’s updated scientific studies show a link between sulfur dioxide pollution and developmental harm to children.
“The research is clear, sulfur dioxide pollution leads to significant adverse health effects,” said Kaya Sugerman, director of the Center for Environmental Health’s illegal toxic threats program.
“The EPA is legally obligated to ensure that more people aren’t needlessly impacted by exposure to unsafe levels of this dangerous pollutant.”