The signal sent by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., is as clear as we''d all like the air to be. The court rejected all remaining challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency''s (EPA) 1997 protective ambient air standards for fine particles (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog). The agency says it will move forward with programs to implement those standards and help states meet them.
The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel "is a significant victory in EPA''s ongoing efforts to protect the health of millions of Americans from the dangers of air pollution," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "EPA now has a clear path to move forward to ensure that all Americans can breathe cleaner air."
The court rejected the claim that EPA acted arbitrarily in setting the national ambient air quality standards. The three-judge panel found that EPA "engaged in reasoned decision-making" in establishing levels that protect public health and the environment.
EPA is moving ahead in partnership with state and local governments to develop programs to meet the fine particle and ozone standards. At the same time, EPA is in the process of making a final decision in response to the court''s earlier directive to consider any potential beneficial health impacts from ground-level ozone, or smog.
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review all its air standards every five years to make sure they reflect the latest and best scientific evidence. In 1997, based on thousands of new health studies, EPA toughened the standards for smog and, for the first time, set a standard specifically for fine particles equal to or smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. Fine particles include airborne soot from sources such as diesel trucks and power plants; smog is caused by emissions from cars, power plants, chemical plants, petroleum refineries and a variety of other sources.
The American Trucking Associations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, other business groups and several states challenged the new standards. In February 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld EPA''s authority under the Clean Air Act to set national air quality standards that protect the American public from harmful effects of air pollution. The district court decision rejected the remaining claims that EPA''s decision was arbitrary and capricious and not supported by the evidence.
The American Trucking Associations had no comment on the decision.
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])