Lawsuit Challenges EPA Failure to Ensure Clean-Up of Nation's Filthiest Air

Federal Inaction Leaves California Unable to Act to Curb Air Pollution
SAN FRANCISCO (January 14, 2008) – The Association of Irritated Residents (AIR) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed suit today in Federal Court in San Francisco against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to ensure that California complies with the Clean Air Act. One of EPA’s main responsibilities under the Clean Air Act is to make sure that California adopts and implements plans to clean up the state’s notoriously bad air pollution. EPA, says the lawsuit, failed to review the state’s clean up plans to protect the health of all Californians, particularly those living in the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles region, areas with the worst air pollution.
The lawsuit charges that EPA failed to implement the Clean Air Act by missing deadlines and not ruling on several key components of the State Implementation Plan (SIP), which serves as California’s clean air master plan. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA must decide whether California’s plans are legal or not. If EPA determines that California’s plans are legal, then the plans become enforceable in Federal Court. If the plans are deemed illegal, then EPA must compel the state to comply with the law or do the job itself. Without EPA’s decision on these plans, many critical measures to clean the air cannot be enforced.  
“EPA should have acted two years ago to guarantee our health is protected,” said Tom Frantz, President of the San Joaquin Valley-based Association of Irritated Residents (AIR). “Once EPA acts, the state must either fix its plans or citizens get to drag the state into Federal Court to force the California regulators to keep their promises to clean up our air.”
Areas of California including the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles region suffer from some of the most intractable air quality problems in the nation, making it critically important that strong, enforceable plans be in place to clean the air. But while many of California’s residents suffer from increasingly high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, the plans that would lead the state to cleaner air remain in bureaucratic limbo at EPA.
“Californians bear immense health impacts from air pollution,” said Noel Park, a Southern California resident and NRDC member. “We need our government to act quickly to clean up this mess, as if people’s lives and health depended on it, because they do.”
AIR and NRDC seek to have EPA comply with the Clean Air Act requirements as expeditiously as possible, in order to ensure an enforceable and health protective clean air plan for California.