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States Succeed In Forcing Epa To Take Action On Particulate Pollution

CONTACT: Thea Schwartz, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3186

June 15, 2012

Vermont and ten other states reached a court settlement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that requires EPA to adopt more protective national ambient air quality standards for fine particulate matter, also known as "soot," pollution by December 14, 2012. "EPA can no longer delay taking action to protect the air we breathe. Particulate pollution is a serious public health concern that can cause a wide range of health effects, including respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and premature death," said Attorney General William H. Sorrell. "Because of today's court settlement, EPA will adopt soot standards that protect public health by the end of this year."

Today's settlement is the culmination of a multi-year effort by a coalition of states to strengthen the nation's soot standards. The federal Clean Air Act requires EPA to update federal standards for common air pollutants, including fine particulate matter, every five years. EPA last revised the soot standards in 2006. In February 2012, Vermont and the other states filed this lawsuit in federal district court based on EPA's failure to timely update the soot standards as required by the Clean Air Act.

In a prior lawsuit, Vermont and 15 other states challenged the 2006 standards as too lax. EPA had adopted the 2006 standards against the advice of its professional staff and its own scientific advisory committee. In 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the states and ordered EPA to reconsider the standards. EPA delayed in doing so and in November 2011, Vermont and nine other states filed a mandamus petition requesting the court to order EPA to adopt new standards later this year. Based on EPA's statements that it would adopt the standards by June 2013, the court denied the states' request.

The States' goal in both legal actions was to force EPA to propose and issue standards by the end of this year. Today's settlement achieves this goal.

Vermont is joined in the settlement, contained in a consent decree lodged with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia today, by New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. The proposed consent decree is subject to court approval after a period of notice and comment by EPA.

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