Judge Orders EPA to Speed up Rules on Toxic Emissions

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Environmental Protection Agency must review and promulgate rules on 20 sources of toxic emissions within the next three years, a federal judge ruled Monday.

The timeline U.S. District Judge Tonya Chutkan imposed Monday is a compromise between one the EPA suggested and one from a host of environmental groups that sued the EPA for missing a deadline in the Clean Air Act to review and make new regulations on toxic emissions sources.

The EPA had eight years to promulgate new standards on the 20 source categories, but blew by that deadline, spurring the environmental groups to sue in 2015. After lengthy litigation, the groups suggested Chutkan require the EPA to finish its rulemaking within one or two years.

But the EPA complained that the groups’ timeline was too ambitious, and countered with one that allowed it to roll out the last of its new regulations by November 2021. For justification it divided the process required to hand down new regulations into nine steps, including investigations, data analysis and public comment.

The environmental groups shot back by saying the EPA timeline was too slow and that Congress surely expected the process to move faster when it crafted the law. The bickering continued as the EPA said it based the proposed timeline on its experience with making similar rules, according to the 13-page ruling.

Chutkan mostly sided with the environmental groups, finding that the EPA had not met the high standard required for her to fully sign on to the agency’s proposal.

“The court agrees with plaintiffs’ contention that the agency’s justifications for its inability to meet their timeline are too vague; citing other objections but failing to describe what they are, what type of resource they consume and whether they could be delayed to prioritizing the RTR [risk and technology] rulemakings at issue,” Chutkan wrote.

But she also determined the groups’ timeline was unreasonable, leading her to impose the new three-year deadline.

The environmental groups, led by California Communities Against Toxics, are represented by Emma Cheuse, with Earthjustice.

“We’re really heartened to see that the agency will be required to do its job under the Clean Air Act to protect public health within a period of time that provides ample time for everyone concerned about the toxic air these sources are emitting to have a chance to participate in that process,” Cheuse said in an interview.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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