CA’s EPA-Approved Clean Air Plan Illegal, 9th Finds

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit agreed Wednesday with environmental groups that the federal government violated the Clean Air Act by approving California’s faulty air-quality plan, partially granting a petition to review the policy.
     The panel ruled the Environmental Protection Agency approved California’s 2007 plan to comply with national air-quality standards in the notoriously smoggy San Joaquin Valley without enforceable emissions limitations and measureable standards.
     “The federal agency, EPA, not the state agency, has the fundamental duty to carry the ball across the goal line to achieve compliant air quality levels or satisfactory progress toward that end,” Circuit Judge Ronald Gould wrote for the three-judge panel.
     At issue is the EPA’s approval of the Golden State’s 2007 implementation plan for complying with national standards for fine particulate matter and ozone pollutants in the San Joaquin Valley.
     The San Joaquin Valley and other regions of the state are home to the nation’s worst air quality and 95 percent of Californians live in cities that fail to meet federal or state standards, according to the California Air Resources Board.
     Lead petitioner Committee for a Better Arvin and two other environmental groups alleged the EPA erred in allowing California’s implementation plan that lacked “enforceable transportation control measures” or state-adopted mobile emissions standards.
     The 9th Circuit ruled the implementation plan did not contain state standards that are necessary for meeting federal requirements, thereby violating the Clean Air Act.
     While the federal government regulates mobile-source emissions standards from cars and trucks in most states, California is allowed to set its own standards with EPA approval. The panel agreed with the petitioners that the state’s implementation plan did not fully comply with federal air-quality standards regarding fine particulate matter and ozone pollutants.
     But the appeals court panel disagreed with the environmentalists’ contention that the EPA allowed other unenforceable commitments regarding heavy-duty diesel engines owned and operated by public utilities.
     While the groups claimed the state left out crucial emission control standards regarding the heavy-duty vehicles, the panel allowed the EPA’s reasoning that the vehicles “had no measureable impact on California’s ability to meet required air-quality levels.”
     “Because California’s commitments to propose and adopt emission-control measures and to achieve aggregate emission reductions are neither aspirational goals nor unenforceable as a matter of discretion or practicality, we conclude that these commitments are enforceable emission standards,” Gould wrote. “And that the EPA’s approval of them into the plans was not arbitrary or capricious and did not violate the Clean Air Act.”
     The panel remanded to the EPA for further proceedings.

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