Court lets states intervene in ozone fight in setback for EPA

Source: Sean Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dealing a blow to the Trump administration and business groups, a federal appeals court will allow California and a half-dozen other states to intervene in litigation to defend U.S. EPA’s 2015 ground-level ozone standard.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the states’ motion without comment in a one-page order released yesterday.

The seven Democratic-led states and the District of Columbia had made the request early last month, citing fears that EPA will no longer forcefully defend the 70-parts-per-billion threshold, which was set under the Obama administration.

Business trade organizations and some Republican-led states are suing to overturn the standard on the grounds that it is unjustifiably strict. At EPA’s urging, however, proceedings in the consolidated litigation have been on hold since April while the agency considers whether to change course.

Further alarming backers of the tighter limit was EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision in June to postpone implementation of the standard by a year. Intervention was “the only way” to protect their interests, California and the other states said in making the request (Greenwire, July 7).

Opposing their bid were EPA and the business groups, which argued respectively that the states lacked legal standing to intervene and that the intervention request came too late (Greenwire, July 19).

Besides California, the states include Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Yesterday, joined by eight other states, they also filed suit to block Pruitt’s decision to delay implementation of the 2015 standard (E&E News PM, Aug. 1).

Ozone, the prime ingredient in smog, is linked to asthma attacks in children and added breathing difficulties for people suffering from emphysema and other chronic respiratory illnesses.

The previous standard, set in 2008, had been 75 ppb. Then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy tightened it to 70 ppb in October 2015, citing the Clean Air Act’s requirement to protect public health based on updated research into ozone’s effects.