(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Wednesday told regulators to re-evaluate Southern California’s long-term strategies for meeting clean air standards amid recent decisions that apparently turn a blind eye to new pollution sources.
The federal appeals panel in San Francisco granted petitions for review submitted by several environmental groups that questioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of the California implementation plan to meet national air quality standards in the highly polluted Los Angeles-South Coast Air Basin.
The Association of Irritated Residents, El Comité para el Bienestar de Earlimart, the Community of Children’s Advocates Against Pesticide Poisoning and the Natural Resources Defense Council objected to the EPA’s partial approval of revisions to the plan. The groups argued that the plan fails to enforce pesticide regulation or to address an expected uptick in car pollution. The groups also claimed that EPA should have ordered California to submit a revised plan after it found the state’s 2003 revisions wanting, according to the ruling.
The three-judge panel agreed on all counts.
“In summary, EPA’s approval of the 2003 [plan] revision was arbitrary and capricious,” Judge Sidney Thomas wrote for the court, granting all of the groups’ petitions for review. “EPA should have ordered California to submit a revised attainment plan for the South Coast after it disapproved the 2003 attainment plan. EPA should have required transportation control measures. EPA is required to determine whether the pesticide element has sufficient enforcement mechanisms to satisfy the requirements of the [Clean Air] Act.”
Despite a projected 30 percent increase in “vehicle miles travelled” based on new modeling, the smog-ridden state asserted in a revised plan for 2003 that it did not need to add any transportation control measures since the increase, improbably, would not increase vehicle emissions.
EPA partially approved the 2003 plan without requiring the state to come up with any emission-offsetting strategies. This violated the Clean Air Act, the panel found.
“EPA’s failure to require transportation control measures was arbitrary and capricious,” the ruling states.
The panel remanded the plan to EPA for further review.