"The EPA's failure to act is putting the health of thousands of Maine children and seniors at risk," said Attorney General Mills. "I will continue to hold the EPA's feet to the fire to protect Maine people from the effects of pollution."
In October 2015, the EPA revised and strengthened the national air quality standards for smog. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to designate areas of the country that are in "attainment" or "non-attainment" with these public health and welfare standards. In this case the EPA was required to issue these designations by October 1, 2017.
In June, the EPA announced it would delay making the required designations. In August, Attorney General Mills and other attorneys general sued the EPA for illegally delaying the designations that show what areas of the country are meeting the Clean Air Act standards and which are not. The day after the lawsuit was filed the EPA announced they would not delay making the designations
The EPA's own studies demonstrate that pollution from states upwind of Maine contributes substantially to the state's unhealthy ozone levels. The designation of areas with unhealthy levels of pollution plays a key role under the Clean Air Act in triggering requirements for state-specific plans and deadlines to reduce pollution in the designated areas. Maine has been meeting these standards for over a decade. If the states upwind of Maine are not required to meet pollution standards, air quality in Maine could decline.
Implementing the 2015 updated smog standards will improve public health for children, older adults, and people of all ages who have lung diseases like asthma, and people who are active outdoors, especially outdoor workers.
In fact, the EPA conservatively estimated that meeting the smog standards would result in net annual public health savings of up to $4.5 billion starting in 2025 (not including California), while also preventing approximately:
· 316 to 660 premature deaths;
· 230,000 asthma attacks in children;
· 160,000 missed school days;
· 28,000 missed work days;
· 630 asthma-related emergency room visits; and
· 340 cases of acute bronchitis in children. Smog forms when nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide emitted from power plants, motor vehicles, factories, refineries, and other sources react under suitable conditions. Because these reactions occur in the atmosphere, smog can form far from where its precursor gases are emitted and, once formed, smog can travel far distances. Despite enacting stringent in-state controls on sources of these pollutants, many states are not able to meet federal health-based air quality standards for smog.