(CN) – The D.C. Circuit upheld all but one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s designations that certain geographic areas failed to meet national standards on airborne soot particles.
The ruling is a defeat for nine cities and counties, 10 industrial groups and three states – New York, West Virginia and Indiana – which challenged the EPA’s methods for deciding if certain metropolitan areas met Clean Air Act standards on fine particulate matter, or soot. Areas that failed to pass muster were designated “nonattainment” and required stricter pollution controls.
The EPA analyzed each area on a case-by-case basis, using a nine-factor test that took into account area emissions, air quality, population density, traffic and commuting patterns, expected growth, meteorology, geography and topography, jurisdictional boundaries and the level of control of emission sources.
In 2005, the agency listed 225 U.S. counties as violating the 1997 federal standards for PM 2.5, the term for airborne particles that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller — less than 1/30 the thickness of human hair.
“Faced with the complex task of identifying those geographic areas that contribute to fine particulate matter pollution, EPA both complied with the statute and, for all but one of the 225 counties or partial counties it designated as nonattainment, satisfied – indeed, quite often surpassed – its basic obligation of reasoned decision-making,” the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., wrote.
The court affirmed the nonattainment designations in all counties but Rockland County, N.Y.
“EPA appears to have acted inconsistently in designating Rockland County as a nonattainment area,” the three-judge panel explained.