Cuomo Sues Bush Epa For Adopting Lax Air Pollution Standards

NEW YORK, NY (May 28, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he is leading a coalition of 14 states, New York City, and Washington D.C. in suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) for failing to protect the public and the environment. The EPA and the Bush Administration have watered-down standards intended to regulate the amount of ground-level ozone air pollution allowed in the atmosphere, in violation of the Clean Air Act.

In March, the EPA acted against specific recommendations of its own independent science advisors and adopted two new, substantially weaker standards for regulating ground-level ozone pollution, commonly referred to as “smog.” White House officials took an active role in making one of the standards far weaker than the scientifically recommended levels.

“The EPA is charged with protecting the environment, yet the Bush administration has repeatedly used it as a tool for facilitating pollution instead of combating it,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “The EPA has once again turned its back on science and adopted a standard for smog pollution that fails in its fundamental purpose – to adequately protect the public health and our natural resources. I will not stand by while millions of New York residents continue to suffer from dirty air because of the federal government’s deliberate negligence. My office will fight to overturn these weak smog standards and force the EPA to live up to its responsibility to truly protect public health and the environment.”

Seemingly small differences in air standards for smog pollution can have substantial consequences for the public. New Yorkers in many regions of the state currently breathe air with dangerously high levels of smog, and according to American Lung Association of New York, the New York City metropolitan area ranks eighth on a list of the top ten of cities across the nation that are most polluted by smog. Ozone is a gas that occurs at both the ground level and in the upper atmosphere; at ground level, ozone is hazardous to public health and the environment.

The federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regularly review and update two types of standards -- known as “primary standards” and “secondary standards” -- for the pollutants it regulates in our air. The primary smog standard defines the upper limit of smog concentrations that can be in the atmosphere before causing public health harms, such as chronic lung disease, asthma attacks, and in some cases even premature death. The secondary smog standard defines the upper limit of smog concentrations that can be in the atmosphere before damaging public welfare by reducing crop productivity and harming plants and animals.

Today’s suit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The states or state agencies joining Cuomo in the suit are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and Rhode Island New York City and the District of Columbia also joined in the suit. The coalition will ask the Court to order the EPA to adopt standards that will actually be protective.

The suit is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael Myers, Chief Scientist Dr. Judith Schreiber, and Environmental Scientist Linda Wilson, under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General for Environmental Protection Katherine Kennedy.