Anyone who has lived in or near Maricopa for more than eight years can remember going outside in the morning, taking a deep breath and knowing that there were 75,000 cows within 15 miles of where you were standing. In Nebraska or Texas that odor is called “the smell of profit,” but in Pinal County, it was a disclosure you had to make when selling a house.

In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared that Pinal County was designated a nonattainment area for particulate matter, and action was to be taken to correct this nonattainment. It appears that between then and now, proper corrective actions were not taken. The Sierra Club, a private organization focused on protecting our environment, is concerned that air in the western portion of Pinal has the worst pollution levels of any county in the U.S.

Believing that the EPA has been negligent in supervising the plan created in 2012, the Sierra Club is suing the EPA in federal court for violating the Clean Air Act. The legal action was initiated on April 14, with a complaint about high levels of airborne particulate matter with a diameter of less than or equal to 10 micrometers (PM10) in Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy, Florence and Maricopa. The suit alleges that the EPA was aware of “widespread, frequent and in some instances severe violations of the PM10 standard.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set and periodically revise national ambient air quality standards, or NAAQS, for pollutants like ozone to protect public health and welfare. The Sierra Club argues that the EPA has failed to meet the expectations of the Clean Air Act.

The primary standards of the NAAQS concern the minimum level of air quality necessary to keep people from getting sick and are aimed at protecting public health. These primary standards are intended to provide an adequate margin of safety for the public, which has been defined to include a representative sample of so-called sensitive populations, such as the elderly, children and persons with asthma. In this time of pandemic, the effects of the virus are exacerbated by pollutants in the air and the EPA has an obligation to remediate this unnecessary danger. Hopefully, the action of the Sierra Club will be a benefit to all who live in Western Pinal County.

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