CHAPEL HILL — A U.S. appeals court rejected on Tuesday North Carolina’s challenge to more stringent federal air pollution standards.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the state waited too long to file its claim, which challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule issued in 2010 that limits fine-particle pollution from industry, autos and power plants. North Carolina waited more than three years to challenge the standards—well after the 60-day statutory deadline. No other state joined North Carolina in its challenge.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represented the N.C. Coastal Federation, Clean Air Carolina of Charlotte and Mountain True of Ashville; and Earthjustice, a nonprofit, San Francisco-based environmental legal strategy organization, represented the Sierra Club to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of the federal government to oppose North Carolina’s attempts to relax the standards.
“We applaud the court’s rejection of North Carolina’s baseless lawsuit,” said Myra Blake, attorney at the law center. “This case has been a tremendous waste of North Carolina taxpayers’ resources, as the state chose to expend valuable time and energy challenging an important public health protection, even though it knew the deadline for filing its lawsuit had already passed.”
Fine particles have been shown to cause health problems, including asthma, heart attacks, bronchitis and premature death.
“Fine particle pollution is linked to over two million premature deaths around the globe each year, and there is no level of exposure that is considered safe,” said Mike Giles, coastal advocate for the federation. “That’s why local citizen groups representing over 15,000 North Carolinians joined forces to oppose the state’s lawsuit.”
North Carolina had attempted to block citizen groups’ participation in the case, but the court in an earlier decision rejected the state’s arguments on this front as well.
“Rather than promoting the interests of the people of North Carolina, the state actively tried to stifle citizen involvement in this matter. That effort fortunately failed, along with North Carolina’s attempt to rollback protections for people from the mountains to the coast” said Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue.
“We’re glad the Court rejected North Carolina’s attempt to undermine the public health protections the Clean Air Act guarantees every person living here. Soot kills, and EPA established solid protections against it. North Carolina’s efforts to put profits over people’s lungs rightly failed,” Seth Johnson, attorney at Earthjustice, said.