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NY Air Pollution Lawsuit Gets Companion on Valentine's Day

February 15, 2012

NEW YORK - Love wasn't the only thing in the air on Valentines Day. Soot, smoke and other airborne particles are the target of a lawsuit which parallels one filed a few days ago by New York's attorney general and his colleagues in 10 other states.

The American Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association are suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency to force it to update air-quality standards as required every five years.

Paul Cort, an attorney with Earthjustice, the public-interest law firm handling the case, says election-year nervousness over hot-button environmental issues may be behind the EPA's foot-dragging - but doesn't diminish the seriousness of the problem.

"By EPA's own analysis, upwards of 120,000 to 360,000 people are dying every year because of particulate-matter pollution and ozone pollution."

The EPA says it is continuing to work on revised and updated standards. The agency itself is seen as a hot-button issue with some presidential hopefuls seeking to reduce its clout, cut its size, or eliminate it altogether.

Cort says New York is taking a leading role in trying to clean up the nation's air.

"The New York attorney general's office is leading the charge for the states - and these are the states that are suffering from EPA's delay."

Cort believes the Obama administration is reluctant to make strong moves to defend the environment because it's an election year.

"There's no dispute in the science that tighter standards are required. EPA will have to propose new standards, and that is just going to bring a lot of heat to EPA and a White House that is moving into campaign mode."

Particulate matter emitted from power plants, factories and diesel trucks is among the most toxic forms of pollution. Advocates for the national parks point out that it also threatens plants and wildlife, and the haze it creates can ruin the views.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY