Environmental Groups Sue EPA Administrator Over Lack of Action

Michael S. Regan is being sued in his official capacity as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by plaintiffs Center for Environmental Health, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity. The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, which was filed Wednesday in the Northern District of California, accuses Regan of failing to “protect people, ecosystems, and wildlife from dangerous exposure to sulfur oxides (SOX) air pollution.”

Exposure to SOX can elicit significant health effects, including decreased lung function, aggravation of asthma, and respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity, the complaint said. Climate-wise, SOX plays a part in acid rain, which can damage “trees, crops, historic buildings, and monuments, and alters the acidity of both soils and water bodies.”

The plaintiffs argued that the EPA is required by law to implement regulations that will inherently limit the amount of SOX in the air. The regulations are formally referred to as National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Certain areas in the country violate these standards, meaning they have greater SOX pollution than is recommended, according to the filing. Areas at issue in the complaint include Detroit and Baltimore.

Because of these levels, the plaintiffs said the states are to submit a state implementation plan (SIP) to be approved by the EPA that will work to diminish their pollution levels. Despite Maryland submitting an SIP to the EPA, they allegedly did not approve, revise, or review it within the specified time frame.

In the event that a state fails to submit one within two years, the complaint said, the EPA is meant to issue a federal implementation plan. Although Michigan has failed to submit an SIP, the EPA has allegedly also failed to issue an FIP even though it has been over two years.

The plaintiffs argued that over 1.3 million citizens inhabit the specified areas, and the pollution will affect both their health and overall quality of life. Further, those who are members of the plaintiffs’ organizations will suffer from not being able to enjoy the polluted environment, harming their “recreational and aesthetic interests.” The plaintiffs said “a court order requiring EPA to promptly undertake its mandatory duties would redress Plaintiffs’ and Plaintiffs’ members’ injuries.”