EPA allows 2015 smog standard implementation after all

On Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it established a new uniform standard for both primary and secondary ozone, set at 70 parts per billion (ppb) each. The standard was lowered from the one set in 2008 by 5 ppb. This national ozone standard is averaged over a period of eight hours.

On Feb. 3, 2016, meanwhile, in “Group challenges newest ozone standard: What this is about,” I wrote: “As it happened, after eight years with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone averaged over eight hours set at 75 parts per billion (ppb) in 2008, on Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightened the standards to 70 ppb, much to the chagrin of interests both related to the environment and industry. Industrial concerns have argued the more stringent health standard would mean job losses and further and unnecessary hardships affecting that sector while environmentalists have asserted the additional 5 ppb improvement simply didn’t go far enough to fully protect the health of the public.”

Well, another related challenge surfaced not long thereafter. It should be noted also that it is under the current administration that the EPA had sought delay in said standards implementation, and in seeking such delay, if I have this straight, action(s) related to this was not altogether legal.

In the “Earthjustice: EPA Withdraws Illegal Delay of Clean Air Safeguards,” Earthjustice press release of Aug. 2, 2017, Seth Johnson, an attorney for Earthjustice, offered this pointed comment: “‘The EPA’s hasty retreat shows that public health and environmental organizations and 16 states across the country were right: the agency has no legal basis for delaying implementation of the 2015 smog standard. Implementing the safer 2015 smog standard will mean cleaner air and healthier people, particularly those most vulnerable to ozone, like children, people with asthma and the elderly. The EPA was wrong to put its polluter friends’ profits before people’s health. Health groups and environmental organizations, as well as states, will continue to watch as the EPA moves ahead with implementing the standard to ensure that the EPA uses the most accurate information about smog pollution and follows the Clean Air Act. We’ve been to court once to hold the EPA to account, and we won’t hesitate to go back.’”

On Jul. 18, 2017 Earthjustice issued the following statement: “Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 806, legislation known as the Smoggy Skies Act, that would permanently weaken the Clean Air Act and delay important anti-smog protections that took more than a decade to achieve.”

The environmental justice organization wasn’t having any of that. In response, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Terry McGuire chided: “‘The Smoggy Skies Act is more of the same from industry’s Congressional puppets—a handout to big polluters at the expense of public health. Make no mistake: real people, especially children, the elderly and asthmatics would suffer, and even die, if this legislation were enacted. Congress and the Trump-Pruitt EPA better wake up: the American public supports the Clean Air Act, and no one, except maybe the fossil fuel lobbyists, voted for dirtier air and more pollution last November.’”

Now, as it had to do with violating the 2015 ozone standard specifically, the way I understand it is the EPA had announced in June that in regards to places needing their air cleaned up, it was putting off for at least a while, naming those areas. The environmental justice organization further explained that the Clean Air Act requires “effective pollution controls” be put in place and through a delay this, in effect, would allow polluters to “escape” such controls, that is, also according to my understanding of the matter.

“Public health and environmental organizations sued the EPA on July 12, and asked the D.C. Circuit Court to immediately strike down or block the delay. The EPA’s withdrawal of the delay came the evening before its response to the lawsuit was due.”

News of this nature is obviously very encouraging and, learning of such, makes this news all the more meaningful.

For more on this see: “Earthjustice: EPA Withdraws Illegal Delay of Clean Air Safeguards: Litigation filed by public health and environmental groups and 16 states prompts EPA to back down on delaying implementing 2015 ozone standardshere.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

– Alan Kandel