PROVIDENCE – A settlement was announced last week by 11 states, including Rhode Island, requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt updated air standards against harmful particulate matter – commonly referred to as “soot” pollution – by Dec. 14.
According to a news release from R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, the settlement, which was contained in a consent decree lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, resolves a lawsuit that the 11-state coalition brought after EPA failed to revise its existing lax standards in a timely fashion.
On May 31, a federal District Court judge sided with the 11-state coalition and ordered EPA to expedite action on proposing new national soot standards. EPA issued its proposed standards pursuant to court order, and the settlement commits the agency to a court-enforceable deadline to finalize these standards.
Soot and other particulate-matter pollution – a byproduct of coal-burning power plants in other states and other sources – consists of microscopic particles that trigger a wide range of adverse health effects. Exposure to particulate-matter pollution increases respiratory-asthma attacks and acute and chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function and premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease. •