Battle Over EPA Smog Rule Intensifies

Silhouetted against the sky at dusk, emissions spew from the smokestacks at Westar Energy's Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant near St. Mary's, Kan. Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010.  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
National Journal
Ben Geman
Jan. 22, 2014, 1:37 a.m.

En­vir­on­ment­al and pub­lic health groups want a fed­er­al court to force the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency to is­sue tough­er stand­ards for smog-form­ing pol­lu­tion.

The Amer­ic­an Lung As­so­ci­ation, the Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, and oth­er groups in a court fil­ing Tues­day, ask a fed­er­al judge to re­quire EPA to pro­pose new ozone stand­ards by Dec. 1, 2014, and fin­ish them 10 months later.

“The longer Amer­ic­ans must wait for the EPA to strengthen the stand­ards, the longer they must breathe air pol­lu­tion that shortens their lives, wor­sens lung dis­ease, makes it harder for them to breathe, and threatens car­di­ovas­cu­lar harm,” the Amer­ic­an Lung As­so­ci­ation said in a state­ment Tues­day even­ing.

The fil­ing is the latest twist in the in­tense, years-long leg­al and lob­by­ing battle over EPA ozone reg­u­la­tions. It’s a fight that has drawn high-level White House in­volve­ment over the past sev­er­al years.

Pres­id­ent Obama, in 2011, scuttled EPA plans to toughen George W. Bush-era stand­ards but noted that EPA would re­vis­it the rules in 2013.

The 2011 White House ac­tion fol­lowed heavy lob­by­ing by in­dustry groups, such as the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Man­u­fac­tur­ers, that say fur­ther tight­en­ing of the rules would hobble the eco­nomy.

EPA, un­der the Clean Air Act, must re­view ozone stand­ards every five years.

The green groups’ fil­ing Tues­day with the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the North­ern Dis­trict of Cali­for­nia says com­ple­tion of that re­view is over­due.

It notes that ozone rules were last pro­mul­gated in mid-March of 2008 and that “there is no dis­pute that EPA has failed to com­plete its re­view.”

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