Health and environmental organizations in eight Southeastern states announced yesterday that they would sue the U.S. EPA for “dragging its feet” in implementing a strict air-quality standard established five years ago. The new standard limits ozone, the primary component of smog, to 0.08 parts per million instead of 0.12 ppm. The EPA claims it has delayed implementing the tougher standard because of industry lawsuits, but the last such challenge was struck down in March. Environmental organizations say that 59 cities or counties in the Southeast aren’t meeting the strict standard, and that as a result, more than 23 million people from North Carolina to Mississippi are exposed to harmful levels of ozone pollution. Pam Lewis, executive director of the American Lung Association’s Alabama chapter, said federal action was crucial to ensure compliance: “The sooner the EPA does its work, then the sooner the state does its work and the residents breathe healthier air.”

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