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States Sue EPA Over Slow Action on Particulate Pollution

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

February 10, 2012

Vermont and ten other states sued in federal court today to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt more protective national air quality standards for fine particulate matter, also known as "soot" or "PM 2.5," pollution. The Clean Air Act and a 2009 federal court order require EPA to adopt more protective soot standards. "Although EPA has taken steps to address air pollution in recent years, Vermont can not overlook its failure to adopt more protective standards for fine particulate matter or soot," said Attorney General William H. Sorrell. "It is well-established that this pollution is especially harmful to children, senior citizens, and people with existing lung and heart conditions. It is clear that exposure to fine particulates can cause serious health problems, including chronic respiratory illness, decreased lung function, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and premature death."

The federal Clean Air Act expressly requires EPA to update federal standards for several pollutants, including fine particulate matter, every five years. The Act's deadline for EPA to adopt new standards passed on October 17, 2011.

The lawsuit is the second of two legal actions taken by Vermont to force EPA to adopt more protective standards on soot. Vermont, other states, and public health organizations challenged lax soot standards adopted by EPA in 2006 against the advice of EPA's professional staff and its own scientific advisory committee. In 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that EPA failed to justify its decision not to strengthen the soot standards and remanded the standards to EPA. On November 16, 2011 Vermont and nine other states filed a mandamus petition asking the D.C. Circuit Court to order EPA to comply with its order in that case. The mandamus petition argues that EPA has failed to take action in response to the court's 2009 order and asks the court to order EPA to adopt new standards later this year.

The Attorney General is undertaking these legal actions with the assistance and support of the Agency of Natural Resources.

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