OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson and 14 other attorneys general filed a lawsuit Tuesday, December 5, 2017 accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of violating the Clean Air Act by delaying air quality standards for ground-level ozone pollution.
Ground-level ozone causes asthma and other respiratory problems. The EPA determined a new standard, adopted in 2015, would have public health benefits worth an estimated $2.9 billion to $5.9 billion.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to designate areas around the country that do and do not meet the new standard within two years of its adoption. Areas that do not meet the standard face strict limitations on industrial and commercial facilities that are sources of compounds that lead to the creation of ground-level ozone.
Ground-level ozone is different from the naturally occurring ozone in the stratosphere that makes up the ozone layer. Ground-level ozone is a harmful pollutant from sources like cars, power plants and refineries.
The administration has not met its two-year deadline, which passed on Oct. 1, 2017 and has yet to designate any areas that do not meet the new air quality standards.
Earlier this year, Ferguson and 14 attorneys general successfully blocked a Trump Administration attempt to delay the same ground-level ozone designations by an additional year.
Washington, along with 13 states and the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging the administration violated the Clean Air Act by failing to make the important air quality designations. This action represents Washington’s 18th lawsuit against the Trump Administration.
“The EPA’s primary role should be environmental protection, not playing politics,” Ferguson said. “I will continue to hold the Trump Administration accountable to the rule of law.”
“Ground level ozone is harmful to lungs, is a risk to those with asthma and is a factor in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “It’s a particularly dangerous threat to our most vulnerable, children and older adults. That’s why the federal government is required to identify places in our country where ozone levels are too high. What Washington state is demanding today is simple: for them to follow the law.”
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to adopt air quality standards that protect public health and welfare. The process of adopting the 2015 standards was lengthy and robust, including a scientific assessment more than 1,000 pages long, two Risk and Exposure Assessments, three hearings and input from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.
Significant health effects are associated with exposure to ozone, including emphysema, asthma, lung tissue damage, coughing and throat irritation, as well as aggravation of existing conditions like asthma, bronchitis and heart disease. Children and the elderly are at particular risk from exposure to ozone pollution.
In late July, the administration announced its decision to delay the deadline for adopting the designations for an additional year, in violation of federal law. Ferguson joined 15 other attorneys general to successfully challenge that delay, forcing the EPA to withdraw its decision.
The ground-level ozone designations were due on Oct. 1, a deadline the administration failed to meet. Four days later, Washington joined 12 other states and the District of Columbia in issuing a 60-day notice of their intent to sue the federal government for failing to issue the designations.
This is the 18th lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s Office against the Trump Administration. Five have been resolved so far. The Attorney General’s Office has prevailed in all five.