Amended Complaint Filed in Clean Air Act Deadline Suit Against EPA

On Thursday, plaintiffs in a Northern District of California case filed an amended complaint in a “Clean Air Act ‘deadline’” lawsuit filed against Andrew Wheeler, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They claimed that the defendant failed to protect “people, ecosystems, and wildlife from dangerous exposure to sulfur oxides (SOx) air pollution.” The amended complaint adds two additional claims against the defendant. 

SOx is reportedly formed “from the combustion of fuel with sulfur, such as coal and diesel.” The plaintiffs, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, and the Sierra Club, claimed that this is harmful to human health and the environment. Additionally, the EPA is reportedly required by the Clean Air Act (CAA) to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which limit the amounts of SOx in the air, but over 1.45 million citizens reside in an area where the levels exceed the standards.

According to the amended complaint, SOx contributes to acid rain and has detrimental effects on lung function, asthma, and respiratory and cardiovascular health. The EPA was accused of missing CAA deadlines designed to fix this and improve the air pollution, specifically they have allowed nonattainment areas to not reach the standards for over six months. The complaint listed nonattainment areas in Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Guam, and Puerto Rico. 

The claims listed in the amended complaint included: failure to make finding of failure to submit, which was the only claim in the initial complaint, failure to approve or disprove State Implementation Plans, and failure to determine if areas have reached required attainment dates. The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers with the Center for Biological Diversity, are seeking a ruling that Wheeler has violated the CAA and an injunction requiring him to “perform his mandatory duties” by a specific date. 

Another CAA complaint was filed in the same court against Wheeler a few weeks after this legal action by two of the same plaintiffs for failing to create a Federal Implementation Plan addressing a rule for the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District, not taking final action on some State Implementation Plan elements, and not completing source review requirements.