Siding with Trump, DC Circuit Court puts EPA ozone rule case on hold

Dive Brief:

  • An appeals court has granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's request to delay litigation over tighter smog rules as the Trump administration puts the Obama-era regulations under review.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit delayed oral arguments and, according to The Washington Post, directed the federal government to file status reports on its review process every 90 days.
  • The EPA approved stricter limits in 2015 to tighten standards on ozone — a main ingredient in smog — from 75 parts per billion (ppb), to 70 ppb. Generators and industry groups oppose the change, and the White House has indicated it will roll back a number of Obama's environmental regulations.

Dive Insight:

In a win for the White House, three judges at the D.C. Circuit have set the ozone rule case aside, instead asking for regular updates on how the federal government's review is proceeding.

The EPA's request is a likely sign that President Tump's administration will not defend the rule and seek to weaken or eliminate the standards. 

In 2015, EPA reviewed research linking smog exposure to adverse health effects like asthma, particularly in children and the elderly. ​Ozone rules were subsequently updated, but power generators and business groups say argue the stricter rules limit economic growth. 

In a court filing last week, the federal government said that “at this time, EPA officials appointed by the new Administration are closely reviewing the 2015 Rule to determine whether the Agency should reconsider the rule or some part of it.”

The same approach is being taken to the Clean Power Plan and other greenhouse gas regulations for the power sector.

An order calling for review of the Clean Power Plan also called for the elimination of restrictions on federal coal leasing and reconsideration of rules governing methane regulations and the federal government's use of the social cost of carbon. 

But while President Trump has promised to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut emissions from existing power plants 32% by 2030, environmentalists say the EPA is obligated to regulate carbon emissions, likely setting up more litigation.

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Filed Under: Generation Regulation & Policy
Top image credit: Wikipedia