WASHINGTON, August 9, 2017 - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced continued air quality improvement as the agency faces a lawsuit  for violating the Clean Air Act. Attorneys General from sixteen states filed the suit against the EPA and Administrator Scott Pruitt alleging they illegally stalled the Clean Air Act by extending the deadline for assigning initial smog area designations on August 1st. The following day the agency released numbers bolstering its reasoning for the year-long delay until October 2018.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was among those signing the lawsuit. She recently filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against Pruitt’s actions to halt regulation that would curb greenhouse gas emissions and methane from new sources in the oil and gas industry.

“The EPA should never put polluters’ interests ahead of the health and safety of Americans,” Madigan said. “This unnecessary delay by the EPA endangers our states and our residents.”

In a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in June, Pruitt announced that the EPA would be delaying area designations for one year as the agency took time to complete a review of the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). He also cited declining ozone levels and improved air quality in comparison with 1980 statistics. A press release on August 2nd reiterated advancements made in 45 years under the Clean Air Act.

“Despite this success, there is more work to be done,” said Pruitt. “Nearly 40 percent of Americans are still living in areas classified as ‘non-attainment’ for failing to achieve national standards. EPA will continue to work with states, tribes, and local air agencies to help more areas of the country come into compliance.”

The EPA’s annual report noted a 22 percent decrease in ground-level ozone and 77 percent decrease in carbon monoxide between 1990 and 2016. However, Madigan’s press release states that 115 million Americans breathe harmful levels of ozone.