Groups Ask EPA to Address Air Pollution, Citing Adverse Health Effects

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received a notice of intent to file a lawsuit on Tuesday regarding its failure to respond to state implementation plans and implement federal plans under the Clean Air Act (CAA), specifically the letter discussed SO2 pollution. 

The letter was sent by the Center for Biological Diversity on behalf of itself and two other environmental organizations, the Center for Environmental Health and the Sierra Club. The groups asked the EPA to stop its delay in approving and creating plans to address air pollution, citing that air pollution contributes to COVID-19 mortality, as well as creating worse outcomes for those with other diseases. 

“Exposure to SO2 in even very short time periods — such as five minutes — has significant health impacts, including decrements in lung function, aggravation of asthma, and respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity. EPA has also determined that exposure to SO2 pollution can aggravate existing heart disease, leading to increased hospitalizations and premature deaths,” the letter explained. 

In addition to having negative effects on human health, the letter claimed that SO2 contributes to acid rain which damages crops and buildings, leads to decreased plant growth, decreases visibility in national parks, and harms already endangered species. 

The environmental groups cited an EPA study showing that the “current levels of oxides of nitrogen and sulfur” are enough to cause acidification in various ecosystems. Additionally the EPA has established standards for SO2 to protect public health which are not being met. The EPA “estimated that 2,300 to 5,900 premature deaths and 54,000 asthma attacks a year will be prevented by the new standard,” the groups said, yet the EPA has not yet implemented its standards. 

The letter claimed that the EPA has failed to approve state implementation plans in Arundel County and Baltimore County and has not created a federal implementation plan for Detroit, Michigan. Each of these areas is a nonattainment area. 

The Center for Biological Diversity explained that it and the other groups would prefer to resolve the matter before filing a lawsuit, and asked the EPA to contact them within 60 days and discuss compliance before they take legal action.