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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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Clean-Air Delay Prompts Lawsuit Against EPA

Planned staff cuts at the EPA, which employs more than 2,000 people in Research Triangle Park, are seen as the beginning of major cutbacks to scientific research and pollution enforcement. (Ben Collins/flickr)
Planned staff cuts at the EPA, which employs more than 2,000 people in Research Triangle Park, are seen as the beginning of major cutbacks to scientific research and pollution enforcement. (Ben Collins/flickr)
July 18, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. – A federal lawsuit asks the courts to stop the EPA's delay in implementing revised smog standards. The EPA itself estimates that when communities meet the 2015 standards it will prevent 230,000 asthma attacks and 160,000 missed school days for children, saving hundreds of lives each year.

According to Seth Johnson, an attorney with the environmental law group Earthjustice, states have submitted the required data on ozone levels to the EPA, but the agency now wants to delay putting the standard into effect for a year.

"Every state in the country did what they were supposed to do," he says. " "Now, it's time for the EPA to do what it's supposed to do, and that is to issue designations under the statute and start the implementation process."

The EPA says it needs more time to review the standard and designate areas that must clean up their air. Planned staff cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency, which employs more than 2,000 people in Research Triangle Park, are seen as the beginning of major cutbacks to scientific research and pollution enforcement in North Carolina.

The groups now suing to stop the delay are concerned that the EPA intends to weaken the standard.

Johnson points out the standard was revised in 2015 in order to help bring communities into compliance with the Clean Air Act.

"EPA's independent science advisers unanimously said that the 2008 standard was too weak to satisfy the statutory requirements," he adds.

Ozone is a corrosive greenhouse gas, and children and the elderly are especially vulnerable.

But, Johnson adds that it can harm healthy adults too.

Once the standard is implemented, Johnson says, designated areas will be required to reduce ozone-forming pollution to bring their community into compliance, beginning with new construction.

"If you want to build a new, big source of air pollution, you're going to have to use the most stringent emissions-reducing technology that's available," he explains.

The groups joining the lawsuit include the American Lung Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Sierra Club.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC