DC Circuit Tosses Challenge to EPA Over Smog Standards

WASHINGTON (CN) – The D.C. Circuit Tuesday tossed a petition filed by the Sierra Club and other groups who wanted to compel the Trump administration to adopt tougher regional smog standards.

The Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association claimed the Environmental Protection Agency violated clean air rules when it amended its regional haze regulations and weakened compliance standards that power plants built before 1977 are required to meet.

Under the Regional Haze Rule, states must impose “the best available retrofit technology” on the pollution-generating plants.

The petitioners argued the EPA’s new rules are too weak and failed to stringently regulate polluters who skirted the rule by applying the bare minimum requirements to their plants rather than requiring them to install the agency-mandated “best available” pollution-killing technology instead.

At its core, the haze rule opened the door for states to pursue alternative approaches to easing air pollution, like cap-and-trade emissions.

But according to Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams, who wrote for the three-judge panel, the regional haze rule was spurred by a flawed standard known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule, or CAIR.

That standard was eventually vacated in 2008, and replaced with a similar mandate in 2011 known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR.

“But, of course, without CAIR — which all parties agree is dead and beyond revival — there is no legal basis for a requirement that states control their sources at CAIR levels,” Williams wrote. “Indeed, for states that are not part of CSAPR, there is no legal basis for requiring states to participate in any haze-related interstate trading program.”

“We cannot order EPA to consider CAIR an alternative to [best available practices’ without resurrecting CAIR itself, a rule that we have already stricken and ordered to be vacated,” the opinion says.

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