Chesapeake Bay sues EPA for not protecting air quality

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Chesapeake Bay

WASHINGTON — The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and environmental and public health partners sued the EPA for refusing to strengthen air quality limits for small, airborne particles (known as particulate matter). Major sources of particulate matter pollution include industrial facilities, power plants, vehicle tailpipe emissions, and large poultry operations.

Joining CBF in filing suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are American Lung Association, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists.

The EPA decided last month not to update particulate matter standards set back in 2012, even though the most up-to-date science shows that the current standard does not sufficiently protect public health. The Clean Air Act requires the standards to “accurately reflect the latest scientific knowledge.”

Stronger particulate matter controls would also benefit the Bay cleanup by reducing emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxides, which cause nitrogen deposition into the Bay and its waterways. Nitrogen is one of the three pollutants that must be reduced to achieve the goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by the 2025 deadline.

The EPA’s decision to leave weak particulate matter limits in place also ignored a growing body of evidence that communities of color and low-income communities are exposed to more particulate matter pollution and are disproportionately vulnerable to the harm it can cause than wealthier White communities.

Finally, EPA’s flawed review process for reviewing the current standard repeatedly marginalized scientific expertise and abandoned long-standing practice. For example, EPA arbitrarily disbanded an independent expert panel that previously helped the agency conduct an unbiased, rigorous scientific assessment of the particulate matter safeguards.

In a related action on Jan. 13, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, all located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, joined 12 other states and New York City in filing a similar suit challenging EPA’s decision not to tighten current particulate matter limits.

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