FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
DC CIRCUIT UPHOLDS AIR QUALITY STANDARDS FOR OZONE
AND PARTICULATE MATTER
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an opinion issued today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld ambient air quality standards for ozone (smog) and fine particulate matter (soot or "PM") promulgated by EPA in 1997. A wide variety of industry groups had opposed the more stringent new standards, which will require imposition of additional controls in many areas.
"We are gratified that after more than four years of litigation, the court has affirmed these standards, implementation of which will improve the lives of millions of Americans who suffer asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Ambient air quality standards establish maximum levels of pollutants allowed in the air. Under the Clean Air Act, states must select and implement whatever controls on sources of pollution are necessary to attain the standards in areas not yet meeting them. Ozone and PM are ubiquitous pollutants, particularly in urban areas. Health effects associated with elevated levels of ozone include aggravation of conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and emphysema. Elevated levels of fine PM are associated with aggravation of respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic bronchitis, with increased susceptibility to respiratory infections and increased risk of premature death.
The challenged standards were promulgated by EPA in 1997 and represented a tightening of existing standards. EPA's decision to promulgate the revised standards was based on data from a variety of sources demonstrating that significant adverse health effects would still persist even where the preexisting standards were attained. The standards were challenged in the D.C. Circuit by petitioners claiming that EPA had not adequately justified the standards.
The court issued an initial opinion in 1999, in which it did not address most of these issues regarding the adequacy of EPA's administrative record to support the Agency's conclusions, but rather held that Congress had not provided sufficient direction in the statute to guide EPA in setting ambient standards, and therefore that the statute constituted an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed that part of the decision in February 2001, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for further consideration.
In the decision issued today in American Trucking Associations v. EPA (D.C. Cir.), the Court of Appeals rejected all of the remaining challenges to the standards. With regard to both the PM and ozone standards, a unanimous panel of the court held that EPA had acted reasonably in finding that the preexisting standards were not adequate to protect public health and in establishing the specific form and level of the revised standards.