Attorney General Becerra Challenges Trump Administration Failure to Strengthen Standards Regulating Ozone Pollution

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as part of a coalition of 16 attorneys general, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s failure to strengthen National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. Ozone, a key ingredient in smog, causes significant harm to human health, including increased frequency and severity of asthma attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In retaining the current standards, the EPA ignored new evidence that further confirms that ozone exposure is detrimental to human health and that minority, low-income, and indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted.

"The Trump Administration is living in an alternate reality, not grounded in facts, science, or the law," said Attorney General Becerra. "The cold, hard truth is that 2020 was the worst year for smog in Southern California in decades – despite a pandemic that ground our economy to a halt and gave rise to numerous stay-at-home orders. We’re going to court today because of the undeniable harm that ozone pollution has on kids playing soccer near highways and parents scraping together money they don’t have to pay for asthma medication."

“CARB and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment are taking action to protect Californians from the dangerous levels of air pollution that U.S. EPA’s national soot and ozone standards would allow,” said California Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “In refusing to tighten these standards, the current administration has once again directed U.S. EPA to disregard compelling scientific research that the current federal levels are inadequate to protect Californians’ health.  U.S. EPA also abandoned its own well-established procedures put in place to ensure air pollution standards are set at safe levels.”  

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set NAAQS for several pollutants, including ozone, at a level that protects public health and welfare. The EPA is required to periodically review the standards and revise them if new information shows that the existing standards are inadequate. The EPA's standards provide key support for California and other states' programs to address ozone pollution within their borders. Since the last review of the ozone NAAQS was completed in 2015, ample new evidence has emerged on the negative impacts of ozone. Numerous epidemiological studies and several reviews from health and environmental agencies have found that short-term exposure to ozone pollution is associated with increased mortality. The public health impacts of ozone are particularly critical in California, which is home to seven of the ten worst ozone-polluted regions in the nation. Ozone pollution also damages vegetation and interferes with ecosystem function, resulting in crop yield loss, reduced tree growth and reproduction, and visible injury to foliage.

In the lawsuit, the coalition intends to argue that the Trump Administration’s decision to retain the current NAAQS regulating ozone is unlawful because:

  • The EPA conducted a flawed and unlawfully biased review of the current NAAQS; and
  • The available science clearly demonstrates the need for the EPA to strengthen the NAAQS. 

Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City of New York in filing the lawsuit.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

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