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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EPA looking to retool outdated smog standards

Signaling the potential for stronger rules about the pollutant otherwise known as ground-level ozone, regulators announced Friday that they will revisit standards left untouched by the Trump administration. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Environmental Protection Agency will once again review air quality standards for smog, the agency alerted the D.C. Circuit on Friday — a review which is long overdue, according to 17 states and a group of environmental and health organizations that have sued the agency for leaving the outdated 2015 standards in place. 

“The most recent science clearly shows that the current ozone standards are simply not strong enough to protect public health, or the crops, forests and ecosystems we depend on,” Earthjustice attorney Marvin Brown said in a statement. 

Earthjustice, along with several other environmental groups, sued the EPA in February for their inaction with ground-level ozone, or smog, standards. Their lawsuit was consolidated with a lawsuit led by New York

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to review National Ambient Air Quality Standards — or NAAQS — every five years. The most recent review occurred in December 2020, the waning days of the Trump administration, which opted to renew the standards without making any changes.

“The science clearly shows that a stronger limit is needed to protect public health and supports separate standards to protect plants and the environment,” Georgia Murray, a scientist with the Appalachian Mountain club, said in a statement. 

Smog is harmful to vast swaths of vulnerable plants and animals, including humans, as it causes asthma attacks and aggravates respiratory disease, disproportionately affecting children, the elderly, minorities and lower income individuals. Each year that smog violates the national standards, 390,000 more asthma attacks occur in children nationwide. 

The decision to review the ground-level ozone NAAQS comes after the EPA announced earlier this year that it would review the standards for particulate matter — another criteria pollutant that is regulated by the EPA. The Clean Air Act also requires the EPA to set standards for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. 

Another Earthjustice lawsuit had precipitated that decision. 

“The two lawsuits were in response to the last administration rushing through the process for review, and not following the scientific methods that they’re supposed to,” Brown said in an interview with Courthouse News Service. “We believe that the previous standards, the 2015 and 2020 NAAQS, set the standard way too low.”

The agency will issue a new standard by the end of 2023. 

Categories / Appeals, Environment, Government, Health

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