For Immediate Release - June 15, 2012

US Court Orders EPA to Finalize New Air Quality Standards

AG Coakley Joined by Ten Other States and American Lung Association in Resolving Lawsuit Against EPA to Compel New Standards

BOSTON – Under a settlement filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must finalize new soot air pollution standards by December 14, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The consent decree was lodged today to settle a lawsuit filed in February against the EPA after it failed to meet an October 2011 deadline set by the Clean Air Act to revise its national air quality standards for fine particulate matter, also known as soot. Massachusetts was joined by ten other states in the lawsuit including New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The American Lung Association, a plaintiff in a related case, also joined the settlement.

“The EPA has dragged its feet way too long in meeting its responsibility to protect the public from the proven dangers of pollution from soot and other dangerous particles in the air,” AG Coakley said. “These new rules mark an important turning point in our effort to ensure that federal air quality standards adequately protect our health and the environment.”   

The proposed new standards, signed by the EPA yesterday, amend the existing requirements by limiting the amount of soot and other particulate matter that is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that may be released into the air. Soot is an airborne contaminant that comes from coal burning power plants, internal combustion engines and waste incineration plants. The consent decree requires the EPA to finalize the proposed standards by December 14.

A health assessment by the EPA suggests that under current standards between 140,000 and 360,000 premature deaths may result from fine particulates in the air.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg of Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division is handling the case for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.               

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