VICTORY: Federal Judge Orders EPA to Enforce Air Quality Standards

March 13, 2018
Contact: Athena Motavvef, 202-548-4585,

Washington, DC — Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam, ruled that the US EPA violated the Clean Air Act in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of WE ACT and other advocacy groups. The lawsuit was regarding the implementation of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) nationwide. The EPA failed to identify areas in the United States with smog levels that violate EPA’s ozone standards by the October 1, 2017 deadline. These areas are also known as Nonattainment Areas.  Judge Gilliam’s order is requiring the EPA to issue the remaining designations by April 30, excluding San Antonio, Texas. EPA is required, by July 17th, to determine whether the San Antonio area air standards violate ozone health standards. EPA had requested a delay of this determination to August 10.

According to the EPA, the smog standards are estimated to save 316 to 660 lives and prevent nearly 900 hospital visits and 160,000 missed school days each year, creating annual health benefits of $4.5 billion. Nationwide, communities of color breathe in dirtier air than white communities. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism nationwide, leading to further social inequalities in education. African Americans experience asthma, asthma attacks, and hospitalization from asthma at higher rates than their white counterparts.

In response, Dr. Adrienne Hollis, WE ACT’s Director of Federal Policy, released the following statement:
“We are ecstatic to hear about the court’s decision. Ground level-ozone causes asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases in children and adults. Low-income and people of color are more likely to live closer to sources of pollution, leading to unfair health outcomes. We hope the EPA does not further delay these designations, but that it takes to heart its mandate – to protect human health and the environment. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air but we need action in our most vulnerable communities to ensure that.”


WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in Harlem, NYC and Washington, DC. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @weact4ej

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