- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s extension for compliance with its ozone standard and its revocation of stringent requirements in the transportation sector. The court ruled earlier this month that the actions went beyond EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.
- The Natural Resources Defense Council sued to block extension of the May 21, 2015, compliance with the 75-parts-per-billion (ppb) standard required by the 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). The EPA’s 2012 implementation of the new standard moved the deadline to meet some parts of the rule on smog-causing ozone to December 31, 2015.
- The D.C. Circuit found the Clean Air Act explicitly disallows extending the compliance deadline. It also found the Clean Air Act does not allow EPA to revoke the requirement that transportation projects comply with the 1997 ozone NAAQS or with regional implementation plans.
Decisions on the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws are typically left to the D.C. Circuit Court because it is thought to have an expertise on such issues that other appellate courts lack.
The Judges took over a year to reach their decision, suggesting a more than normally contentious issue. The ruling came down Dec. 23.
The decision’s impact is expected to be limited because the EPA is in the process of tightening the ground-level ozone standard to between 65 ppb and 70 ppb, according to the Clean Air Act's requirement that EPA set and periodically update national standards for ozone and five other pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment.
Based on extensive current scientific evidence about ozone's effects, the updated standard will add protection for children, the elderly, people with lung diseases, and ecosystems.