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Attorney General Kilmartin Chides EPA for Slow Action on Soot

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin joined his colleagues in 11 other states in taking two actions to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue rules against soot, something the agency is required to do by the Clean Air Act and court order.

Attorney General Kilmartin and the other states notified the EPA yesterday of their intent to bring a new suit over the agency's failure to issue rules against soot. The technical name of the regulations would be "revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter."

The federal Clean Air Act expressly requires EPA update federal standards for several pollutants, including soot, every five years. The Act's deadline for the EPA to adopt new standards for soot pollution passed on October 17.

Second, Rhode Island has joined the nine other states that sought to re-open an old suit on the same topic. Specifically, the coalition of 10 states filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asking the court to enforce its earlier order to the EPA to issue a new standard for soot. The earlier order had been won by the states in 2009.

The states assert that the current situation is especially harmful to children and the elderly. EPA itself estimated that more than 10,000 deaths could result each year from exposure to fine particles (soot) permitted under current levels. Exposure to fine particulates can cause serious breathing problems and heart disease.

"It is well established that soot pollution can cause numerous harmful health effects, including premature death, chronic respiratory illness, decreased lung function, cardiovascular disease and asthma," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Rhode Islanders should not have to wait for EPA to comply with a court order, especially since the bulk of the pollution we have drifts in from out-of-state."

Other states participating in the notice to sue include: the California Air Resources Board, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont and Washington.

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