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Agency Ignores Scientists, Health Experts; Gives Polluters a Free Pass

WASHINGTON (September 20, 2006) -- The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to keep in place an inadequate standard for soot pollution, threatening the health of more than 75 million Americans, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Since the current particulate matter standard was established in 1997, there have been more than 2,000 peer-reviewed studies that collectively show that the standard fails to adequately protect public health. Particulate matter is produced by coal-fired power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles.

NRDC and other environmental organizations, a long list of science and health organizations -- including the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association -- and two EPA scientific advisory committees have called on the EPA to strengthen the standard. The EPA is expected to make no change in the standard for annual exposure to fine particle pollution and a modest improvement in the standard for daily exposure. The agency has until September 27 to issue the new standards but may announce it as early as this week.

Below is a statement by John Walke, director, NRDC Clean Air Program:

"The Environmental Protection Agency is more interested in protecting the special interests of industrial polluters and automakers than protecting American citizens from asthma, strokes, heart attacks and lung disease. This decision blatantly ignores the agency's own medical and health experts and the thousands of studies that show that the EPA standard will leave tens of millions of Americans at risk from soot pollution.

"The benefits of cleaning up the pollution far outweigh the costs, and we have the technology today to clean up this problem. But the EPA lacks the political will, and is being twisted around by industry lobbyists. Americans will pay the price of this decision with their health."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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