MAC/20: Mines and Communities

EPA Loses Court Attempt to Weaken Clean Air Rule

Published by MAC on 2007-06-08

EPA Loses Court Attempt to Weaken Clean Air Rule

WASHINGTON, DC, (ENS)

8th June 2007

A federal appeals court today declined to reconsider its December 2006 ruling that struck down the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, rule that attempting to weaken protections against ground level ozone, a component of smog associated with respiratory illness.

Petitions by the EPA and industry groups to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia were denied.

The case arose from changes that have been made to the Clean Air Act since it was enacted in 1990.

The 1990 Clean Air Act required stronger anti-smog measures in cities violating ozone standards, including limits on pollution from new and expanded factories, requirements for annual cuts in smog-forming emissions, and caps on truck and car exhaust.

In 1997, the EPA found that the then-existing "1-hour" ozone health standard was not strong enough to protect health, and adopted a new "8-hour" standard to provide greater protection.

But in 2004, the EPA adopted rules that weakened pollution control requirements for areas violating both the old and the new standard.

That decision triggered the court challenge leading to that rule being struck down in December 2006, and the EPA-industry appeals being rebuffed today.

The court characterized the industry's desired readings of the law as a "glaring loophole" that nothing suggests Congress intended.

Recognizing the harm from EPA's delay, laxity and lawlessness, the court "urged" EPA to "act promptly in promulgating a revised rule that effectuates the statutory mandate by implementing the eight-hour [ozone] standard, which was deemed necessary to protect the public health a decade ago."

Earthjustice successfully represented a group of public health and environmental organizations - the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club - that challenged the EPA rule, and later defended the court's December decision that overturned the rule.

Also challenging the EPA rules were the Louisiana Environmental Network, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Clean Air Task Force, on behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and a coalition of states including Massachusetts, Delaware, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

"Today's decision reaffirms that EPA must follow the Clean Air Act and limit this harmful pollution," said Earthjustice attorney David Baron.

"Health experts agree that we need stronger protections, not weaker limits on smog pollution."

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