Legal Agreement Spurs EPA to Take Stronger Steps to Reduce Smog Pollution in Areas of Five States With Some of Nation’s Worst Air Quality

OAKLAND, Calif.— As a result of a legal agreement with environmental groups, the Environmental Protection Agency has downgraded the smog pollution rating in portions of five states from “serious” to “severe.” The downgrade will trigger more protective measures to reduce the dangerous levels of smog pollution.

The areas affected have some of the nation’s worst air quality. The EPA downgraded the areas because their ground-level ozone pollution — commonly called smog — continues to exceed levels that are safe for human health, wildlife and plants.

“Recognizing the reality that these areas have a severe smog problem marks an important step forward in reducing this dangerous pollution,” said Ryan Maher, an environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now it’s time to quickly put concrete plans in place to fix it.”

Smog pollution is linked to human health problems like asthma attacks, cardiovascular issues and premature death. Those most at risk include older adults, children and people who work outdoors. The harm smog does to plants can damage entire ecosystems and reduce biodiversity.

“The 37 million people who live in these areas with unsafe levels of toxic pollution deserve clean air and immediate federal action,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of the Center for Environmental Health’s illegal toxic threats program. “This victory will help protect these communities from the dangers of this pollution.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, WildEarth Guardians and Environmental Integrity Project sued the EPA in March 2022 after the agency missed its deadline to reclassify these areas from a serious to a severe rating for smog. The agreement resulting from that lawsuit required the EPA to finalize the ratings for the following areas by Thursday: the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas in Texas; the New York City metro areas of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey; and the Denver-Boulder-Greeley-Fort Collins-Loveland area in Colorado.

Under this agreement, the EPA must also determine by December 16, 2022, whether the smog ratings for Ventura County and western Nevada County in California need to be downgraded.

“For the more than 3.5 million people living in the Denver Metro and North Front Range region of Colorado, this finding gives new hope for clean air,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians. “Now it’s up to Governor Polis and his administration to do the right thing and finally clean up this smoggy mess and finally restore healthy skies along Colorado’s Front Range.”

The downgraded ratings are part of the environmental groups’ ongoing effort to compel the EPA to protect human health and the environment from smog pollution in accordance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act. More information about the fight against air pollution is available at Protecting Air Quality Under the Clean Air Act.

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