Dec 23, 2014 12:49 PM CT
U.S. regulations for reducing ozone pollution must take effect next year, not several months later as the Environmental Protection Agency sought, a federal appeals court ruled.
The EPA improperly extended its date for states to comply with tougher air-quality
standards to Dec. 31, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals
in Washington ruled today. The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the EPA in 2012 after the agency said the Clean Air Act
gave it the authority to relax a three-year compliance timetable.
In its lawsuit, the NRDC said the standards should have gone into effect near the end of May 2015 rather than the end of the year. Smog is at its peak during the summer, so the EPA’s timetable would have pushed back cleaner air by another year, said John Walke
, clean-air director for the environmental organization.
“The EPA was in effect giving areas an additional year to have unhealthy air quality, and the court found that was a violation of the law,” Walke said in an interview. “It affects most urban areas in the United States that have unhealthy smog levels. NRDC is thrilled that the court upheld stronger clean-air protections against dangerous smog pollution.”
An EPA spokeswoman, Jennifer Colaizzi, said the agency is reviewing the decision.
The three-judge panel also ruled that the agency improperly relaxed clean-air safeguards for transportation projects.
are part of a long-term process for reducing pollution, with states primarily responsible for deciding what steps to take.
While most of the country by area meets ozone standards, about 180 million people live in zones that don’t, Walke said. That is more than half the U.S. population.
Ozone, the main component of smog, is an odorless, colorless gas produced when pollutants from cars, boilers, power plants and other sources react chemically in sunlight.
It can irritate the respiratory system, reduce lung function and aggravate asthma.
The case is Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA, 12-1321, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia