Press Releases & Bulletins

DATE: March 26, 2002


Time for EPA to Stop Foot Dragging and Enforce Tougher Standards

(Washington, D.C. March 26, 2002) - A federal appeals court today rejected industry challenges to the national air quality standards for smog and soot set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1997, the nonprofit Clean Air Trust noted.

"This is a huge victory for breathers," said , executive director of the nonprofit Clean Air Trust. "Now there is no excuse for EPA to drag its feet in enforcing the standards. It is time for EPA to follow through with the promise of cleaner air made nearly five years ago."

Today's legal decision is perhaps the final major legal chapter in the long-running battle over the tougher clean air standards for ozone (smog) and soot (fine particulate matter). EPA issued the standards in 1997 despite an unprecedented lobbying blitz by industries opposed to the tougher standards.

Industries, led by the American Trucking Associations, sued. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit initially set the standards aside on constitutional grounds. But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the lower court ruling and upheld the validity of the standards. The Supreme Court also unanimously rejected an industry argument that EPA should have based the standards on a cost-benefit analysis rather than on the impact of pollution on public health.

The Supreme Court returned the case to the appeals court for any further action. The appeals court accepted a new industry challenge to the standards on the grounds that they were arbitrary and capricious. The appeals court rejected that industry challenge today.

O'Donnell noted that EPA still must clear up several issues related to the ozone standard before it can begin enforcing it, but there is now no legal impediment to moving forward.

"The court has upheld the bedrock of the Clean Air Act. It is time for EPA to devote its energies to enforcing the law," said O'Donnell.

The case can be found at the appeals court's Web site (under "Most Recently Released Opinions").

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