By Michael Bastach
The U.S. Court for the District of Northern California ruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law by missing a regulatory deadline for ozone regulations the Obama administration imposed.
Environmentalists sued President Donald Trump’s administration for not announcing which parts of the country were out of compliance with smog regulations. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was supposed to issue the determinations in October but delayed his announcement.
“There is no dispute as to liability: Defendants admit that the administrator violated his nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act to promulgate by October 1, 2017 initial area air quality designations,” Judge Stirling Gilliam Jr. wrote in his opinion, The Hill reported.
The Justice Department admitted in a recent legal filing that EPA missed the deadline set for issuing regulatory determinations under the Clean Air Act. EPA will soon have to make public which areas of the country are in compliance with ozone regulations.
It’s a setback for the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda but probably only a small one. Officials have been trying to roll back the Obama-era ozone rule for months, but legal challenges from environmental groups and states have kept the regulation alive.
The Trump administration initially suspended the 2015 ozone regulation, but the administration reversed course in August. The ozone rule has been locked in litigation since its finalization in 2015.
EPA put stricter ozone regulations in place in 2015, bringing national limits from 75 to 70 parts per billion. Counties out of compliance have to find ways to reduce smog levels, which can lead to burdensome costs.
Pruitt is likely working to repeal the ozone rule. Industry groups have called it one of the most expensive air quality regulations ever.
EPA estimated lowering ozone concentrations would cost $2 billion, including California’s compliance costs. The ozone rule benefits range from $3.1 billion to $8 billion, EPA said, but most benefits come from reducing fine particulate matter — not lower ozone levels.
A 2014 National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) study found a 65 parts per billion ozone standard would cost $1.13 trillion from 2017 to 2040. While not as low, the 2015 ozone standard would likely stack up in the hundreds of billions based on NAM’s report.