Energy & Environment

EPA sued by environmental groups over Trump-era smog rule

A coalition of 14 environmental groups on Thursday sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to challenge the Trump administration’s decision to not pursue tougher smog standards.

The rule finalized in late December kept the Obama-era air quality standard for ozone, the main component of smog, at 70 parts per billion (ppb). Administrations typically tighten the standards when they are updated every five years.

“The Trump administration corrupted and rushed the scientific review process of this rule as it walked out the door, just so industrial polluters can sit and do nothing for the harm they cause,” Seth Johnson, lead Earthjustice attorney on the case, said in a statement.

“These outdated ozone standards must be corrected not just for children’s safety and public health, but also because they are critical to addressing the climate crisis.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund were among the groups joining the suit. Fifteen states previously sued over the rule.

While ozone provides protection in the stratosphere, ground-level ozone can cause asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.

In finalizing the rule, the EPA said the move was part of an effort to streamline regulations.

“This decision fulfills the Trump administration’s promise to streamline the [National Ambient Air Quality Standards] review process,” now-former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said at the time.

Since President Biden took office, the EPA has hinted that it might pursue a change in direction on air quality standards.

“The agency’s new leadership is committed to moving forward to fulfill the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities of protecting public health and the environment, tackling the climate crisis and air pollution, advancing environmental justice, restoring science, and building back better. Because this is potential litigation, EPA has no additional information to share,” an agency spokesperson said by email.

The EPA last month asked the Justice Department to seek a pause in all cases where litigants were challenging Trump-era policies, giving the new administration a chance to reverse course and pledge to issue new regulations.

Tags Andrew Wheeler EPA Joe Biden Ozone Smog
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