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Suit Says: Politics over Science Leaves New Yorkers Gasping

May 29, 2008

New York, NY — In setting less stringent standards for ozone pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have ignored its own scientists' findings, according to a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday. For New Yorkers, especially those in and around several cities upstate, it means their communities could go without necessary protection from pollution and related problems.

Attorney David Baron, with the environmental law firm Earthjustice, filed the suit. It alleges that such cities as Albany, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse, and Utica, all have smog levels higher than what EPA scientists deem safe, but that the agency refused to adopt the scientists' recommendations.

"These standards determine how much the air will have to be cleaned up so that New Yorkers can feel free to breathe safely, and so that forests in places like the Adirondacks will be protected."

Baron contends the EPA dismissed the scientific recommendations at the request of the White House.

"The Clean Air Act requires that the clean air standards be based on what's needed to protect public health and the environment - that's all. Politics and economics are not to be involved. Unfortunately, what we've seen too often in recent years, is that other factors besides protection of health and the environment end up deciding these matters."

The EPA defends its standards, calling them "the most protective ever issued by the agency." Baron says that, unless ozone pollution standards are stringent enough to protect small children, parents upstate will need to be careful about letting them play outdoors this summer.

Both New York City and the State of New York, along with 13 other states, are parties in federal lawsuits against the EPA for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act.

Michael Clifford/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NY