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A.G. Schneiderman Files Lawsuit Against Trump EPA For Stalling Action On Clean Air

16 Attorneys General Challenge EPA’s Illegal One-Year Delay In Protecting Public’s Health From Dangerous Smog Pollution

115 Million Americans – Including 1 In 3 New Yorkers – Breathe Air With Unhealthy Levels Of Smog, Which Often Travels Far Distances From Other States

Standards Would Prevent Up To 660 Premature Deaths, 230,000 Asthma Attacks In Kids

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a coalition of 16 state Attorneys General, recently filed a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrator Scott Pruitt for illegally stalling the designation of areas impacted by unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone (known as smog) – vital to protecting New Yorkers and other Americans from dangerous pollution.

According to the American Lung Association, over 115 million Americans – including 6.7 million, or one in three, New Yorkers – breathe harmful levels of ozone, which often travels far distances from other states with less stringent clean air regulations. The designations, which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently delayed for one year, play a key role under the Clean Air Act in addressing smog’s serious threat to public health, triggering requirements for state-specific plans and deadlines to reduce pollution in the designated areas.

“One in three New Yorkers are breathing dangerous levels of smog pollution pouring in from other states. Yet again the Trump EPA has chosen to put polluters before the health of the American people,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “By illegally blocking these vital clean air protections, Administrator Pruitt is endangering the health and safety of millions – but Attorneys General have made clear: we won’t hesitate to fight back to protect our residents and our states.”

Attorney General Schneiderman is joined in this suit by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, and the District of Columbia. Click here to read the lawsuit.

The coalition of Attorneys General is challenging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s one-year delay in designating areas with unhealthy levels of smog as violating the requirements of the Clean Air Act, and as arbitrary and capricious.

In October 2015, the EPA revised the national air quality standards for smog, strengthening those standards. The Clean Air Act requires the Agency, within two years after issuance of new or revised standards, to designate areas of the county that are in “attainment” or “non-attainment” with these public health and welfare standards. In the case of the 2015 smog standards, EPA was required to issue attainment or non-attainment designations by October 1, 2017. However, on June 28, 2017, EPA Administrator Pruitt published a notice stalling the deadline for the smog designations for all areas in the country for one year – to October 1, 2018.

The designation of areas for national air quality standards is a key statutory obligation under the Clean Air Act – and for protecting the public’s health. For areas designated as in non-attainment for the standards, states must adopt “implementation plans” – a collection of actions that the state will undertake to reduce pollution in order to ensure standards will be met in those areas. The deadlines for submitting implementation plans – and for ensuring that air quality standards are met within designated areas – are both directly keyed to the date of EPA designations.

"Governor Cuomo has prioritized making New York a national leader in the fight to protect public health and the environment from air pollution by championing innovative programs to improve air quality, including strict environmental rules, regulations and enforcement programs that limit air emissions," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "The federal government must be a strong partner in these efforts, and any further implementation delays on air pollution reduction efforts and regulations only seek to set back our efforts and put the health of our communities and our children at risk. DEC commends Attorney General Schneiderman for acting on our referral of this case, and we look forward to working with him and our other state partners in fighting back against this unnecessary delay."

According to EPA, the 2015 updated smog standards will improve public health protection – particularly for at-risk groups, including children, older adults, people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma, and people who are active outdoors, especially outdoor workers. In fact, the Agency conservatively estimated that meeting the new smog standards would result in net annual public health benefits of up to $4.5 billion starting in 2025 (not including California), while also preventing approximately:

  • 316 to 660 premature deaths;
  • 230,000 asthma attacks in children;
  • 160,000 missed school days;
  • 28,000 missed work days;
  • 630 asthma-related emergency room visits; and
  • 340 cases of acute bronchitis in children.

Smog forms when nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide emitted from power plants, motor vehicles, factories, refineries, and other sources react under suitable conditions. Because these reactions occur in the atmosphere, smog can form far from where its precursor gases are emitted and, once formed, smog can travel far distances. That is why, despite enacting stringent in-state controls on sources of these pollutants, many states – including New York – are not, alone, able to meet federal health-based air quality standards for smog.

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, “The science linking smog to adverse health impacts is clear and definitive. Delaying attainment of standards for dangerous smog pollution will directly harm New Yorkers and is clearly an attempt to prioritize corporate interests over the public’s interest. The EPA should be assessing the bottom line of their actions by their effectiveness in protecting the public, not the joy of corporate shareholders. We are thankful for the leadership of AG Schneiderman and his coalition of 16 Attorneys General, who clearly care about the health of the public they are sworn to serve.”

Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said, “Each day that the EPA delays implementing new ozone standard rules, lives in my community could be impacted. It is not ‘Making America Great Again’ when the Trump Administration delays these rules, it is ‘Making Some Americans Sick Again.’ The Administration’s actions could lead to the hospitalization of an asthmatic child in Harlem, or the premature death of a parent with respiratory illness in Washington Heights. For decades, until now, the EPA has regulated ozone to make the air in many states like New York cleaner, especially in environmental justice communities where air quality is often worse. Unlike the President, we cannot all take vacations to golf resorts or Mar-a-Lago to get a breath of fresh air. We stand with NY Attorney General Schneiderman and all the other Attorneys Generals as they fight for the right of all people to breathe clean air.”

This matter is being handled for the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau by Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Lusignan, Affirmative Section Chief Morgan A. Costello, and Senior Counsel Michael J. Myers. The Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.