Court Approves Consent Decree Requiring EPA To Address Air Quality in California and Colorado

As a result of the lawsuit filed against them by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Environmental Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency entered a consent decree agreeing to address issues brought forth in the lawsuit, which revolve around areas suffering from dangerous levels of smog in the air in California and Colorado. The consent decree was signed by the court on Friday. 

The specific areas include the metro Denver area, front range of Colorado, Coachella Valley, and Kern County, “which has the state’s highest oil production and some of the worst air quality in the nation,” according to the filing. These areas have varying deadlines for when the states must have plans to address the air quality for the areas in question. Most of these deadlines are December 15 of this year, but some are not required until February 15, 2023.

The Center’s attorney said in a statement, “we are pleased that the EPA has agreed to take steps to reduce asthma-causing smog … as we transition to cleaner energy, we need to do everything we can to reduce the air pollution from fossil fuels.” Another representative for the plaintiffs promised that “We will continue to ensure that the EPA puts the interests of kids and families ahead of the profits of polluters.”

Aside from the safety of the humans living in these areas, numerous plants and animals have and will be affected by the smog levels via damaged leaves, forest fires, infection, and bug infestations, the plaintiffs explained. Some of the affected plant life includes “aspen, ponderosa pine and cottonwood, all of which provide essential habitat for imperiled birds and butterflies.”

According to the press release, “Excess ground-level ozone, the principal component of smog, impairs lung function, causes asthma attacks and aggravates respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema, which can lead to premature death. Children, older people, people who work or exercise outside, and those with respiratory conditions are most at risk.” 

Smog in these areas, according to the Center, consistently exceeds standard levels. It claimed that hundreds of thousands of young children will experience asthma attacks as a result of these violations. According to the plaintiff, “In 2013 children missed 13.8 million school days because of asthma — making it the top cause of missed school days in the United States.”

The Center explained that it believes “the EPA has failed to undertake certain non-discretionary duties under the Clean Air Act” and hopes that this consent decree can yield the results they were looking for.