RHA Sues U.S. EPA to Enforce Ozone Standards

RHA Sues U.S. EPA to Enforce Ozone Standards

On Thursday, August 2, Respiratory Health Association and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (our pro bono lawyers) filed a lawsuit challenging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s final ruling regarding the standards for measuring smog (also known as ground level ozone) in the Chicago region. In an effort to weaken current environmental protections, U.S. EPA is redefining the regional boundaries that are used. This will make areas that were not in compliance (i.e. dirty areas) appear to be clean under the new map.

Here is a summary of the issue and an opportunity to get involved in protecting the air we breathe:

What is Smog?

Smog, also known as ground-level ozone, is formed when pollution from power plants, industrial facilities, motor vehicles and other sources reacts with sunlight to form ozone. Ozone is a lung irritant that harms people with asthma or other respiratory diseases, older adults, children and other vulnerable people. It can drive kids and sensitive adults inside on hot summer days and put outdoor workers at risk.

What Happened?

After confirming the dangers of breathing smog pollution and tightening the health standard through the Clean Air Act in 2015, the U.S. EPA finalized boundaries for geographic areas that fail to meet the ozone health standard in May this year. The purpose of such boundaries is to ensure air pollution rules and policies are put in place to reduce air pollution and move these areas toward meeting the standard.

Last December, several Midwest counties were included within the boundaries as areas that did not meet the standard and were required to reduce air pollution. However, this May U.S. EPA made last-minute, unwarranted changes excluding these areas from the strict pollution limits. A Chicago Tribune article also points out that these loosened restrictions benefit big industrial companies planning to build in these areas and save them from making expensive improvements for pollution-control.

“We are very concerned that EPA would dial back these decisions,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs at Respiratory Health Association in Chicago. “Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and EPA’s decision puts area residents at risk of more lung infections, asthma attacks and hospitalizations for respiratory problems.”

A Chance to Get Involved!

As a part of this lawsuit, we need the voices of people living in the affected areas to make our case stronger and protect clean air across the region. Do you or someone you know live in McHenry County (IL), Kenosha County (WI), Porter County or the south half of Lake County (IN)? RHA is looking for people living in these areas to help us to protect the health of Chicagoland residents by forcing U.S. EPA to comply with its restrictions on smog pollution.

If you want to stand up for clean air and tell EPA how bad air quality affects your life, please send a note to Brian Urbaszewski at burbaszewski@resphealth.org.