EPA ordered to strengthen enforcement of Clean Air Act

Feb. 12, 2004, midnight | By Caitlin Garlow | 16 years, 11 months ago

Washington area in violation of ozone levels

This is not original reporting. All information has been compiled from the Washington Post article "Court Tells EPA to Get Tough With Region on Ozone Pollution" by Carol D. Leonnig.

On Feb. 3 the federal court system charged the Environmental Protection Agency with failing to enforce the standards set by the Clean Air Act.

The appeals court found fault with the EPA for giving lengthy time extensions to companies in the Washington area to reduce their emission levels. The EPA proposed extending the 1999 low-emissions level deadline by six years to 2005, infuriating local environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, according to the Post.

The Sierra Club sued the EPA three times for "illegally ignoring the deadlines" in place to lower emissions. Many of its members expressed outrage that "citizens [had] to take a public health agency to court to do its job."

The EPA classified Maryland, Virginia and the District as severe violators of the emissions standards required by the Clean Air Act; during the summer of 2002, the area reported nine Code Red alerts. Clean- air standards demand that there be no more than four Code Red alert days over the duration of three summers. The regional level of ozone pollution was 0.132 parts per million in 1999, violating the national level of 0.12.

Citizens of the Washington area feel the effects of the poor air quality through asthma and respiratory ailments, which are becoming increasingly common in the region. The air particles have the most detrimental effect on children and elderly people, according to the Post.

Congress wrote the Clean Air Act in 1970 and revised it in 1990, and while the EPA is in charge of enforcing the act, the appeals court ruled that the regulatory agency does not have the right to interpret or change the deadlines. The ruling is expected to cause momentous changes in the region for business, power plants and transportation companies. Industries violating the Clean Air Act will be required to reduce their emissions by three percent each year until they are in compliance with the law.

To learn more about the air quality near Blair, click here.

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Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »

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