Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin has RI joined with 10 other states in filing a lawsuit to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue rules against soot. The coalition took legal action after the EPA failed to meet an October 2011 deadline to adopt national air standards to limit soot pollution.
The lawsuit, filed today in federal district court in New York City, asks the Court to direct the EPA to promptly propose, and then finalize, new soot pollution standards. Specifically, the 11 states asked the court to enforce an earlier order to the EPA to issue a new standard for soot. The earlier order had been won by the states in February 2009, in a lawsuit that had been filed in 2006, and was supposed to be fulfilled in October 2011.
According to Attorney General Kilmartin, "the science is clear that the current federal standards for soot emissions are woefully inadequate, causing premature deaths and serious chronic respiratory harm to people in Rhode Island as well as across our country."
Soot, also known as fine particulate matter or "PM 2.5," is produced primarily by diesel vehicles and power plants. Breathing in soot pollution can increase emergency room visits for people with asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Furthermore:
According to the American Lung Association, one in 17 Americans live in areas with unhealthy year-round levels of soot pollution;
Under the current standards, the state Department of Environmental Management estimates that roughly 50 people die prematurely every year in the Rhode Island from heart disease related to soot pollution;
Providence County ranks among the worst six per-cent of all counties in the United States for health impacts from diesel soot pollution.
The average lifetime cancer risk from diesel soot for Providence County residents is 330 times higher than the acceptable risk level determined by the EPA itself.
Other Rhode Island Counties rank, at best, in the worst twenty percent; and
Rhode Island has the 5th highest asthma rate in the country and the 3rd highest in the Northeast.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to make national standards for several pollutants, including soot. EPA issued standards in October 2006. However, in December 2006, Rhode Island and others challenged that standard as too lax and as contrary to science.
In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the states, holding that the EPA had not justified its decision and had to take study the problem again. Then the deadline -- October 17, 2011 -- passed without the EPA even proposing a new standard.
On November 16, 2011, Attorney General Kilmartin and the other states sent a 60-day notice to the EPA, signaling their intention to sue over the lack of action. The EPA has not responded, leading Kilmartin and the state coalition to take today's legal action.
The states joining are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington