Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (June 2, 2008) – The Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Office of the Attorney General today announced that it has joined a coalition of 14 states, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York in suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to protect the public and the environment. The EPA and the Bush Administration have watered-down standards intended to regulate the amount of ground-level ozone air pollution allowed in the atmosphere, in violation of the Clean Air Act.

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s lax policies have done little to improve air quality,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “By joining this lawsuit Maryland is demonstrating our desire to continue to improve air quality and protect the health of our citizens.”

"Strict ozone standards will improve the lives of Marylanders with asthma and other respiratory illnesses," said MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson. "The Maryland Department of the Environment urges the EPA to listen to their scientists and set a standard that protects public health."

In March, the EPA acted against specific recommendations of its own independent science advisors and adopted two new, substantially weaker standards for regulating ground-level ozone pollution, commonly referred to as “smog.” White House officials took an active role in making one of the standards far weaker than the scientifically recommended levels.

“The scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that reducing ozone levels protects our environment and the health of our citizens,” said Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. “With the summer months already upon us, the EPA needs to act now and implement ground-level ozone standards that will help save lives and preserve our natural resources.”

The federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regularly review and update two types of standards -- known as “primary standards” and “secondary standards” -- for the pollutants it regulates in our air. The primary smog standard defines the upper limit of smog concentrations that can be in the atmosphere before causing public health harms, such as chronic lung disease, asthma attacks, and in some cases even premature death.

The secondary smog standard defines the upper limit of smog concentrations that can be in the atmosphere before damaging public welfare by reducing crop productivity and harming plants and animals.

Today’s suit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The states or state agencies are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and Rhode Island. New York City and the District of Columbia also joined in the suit. The coalition will ask the Court to order the EPA to adopt standards that will actually be protective.