NGOs File Lawsuit Over Missed Ozone Deadline

DECEMBER 6, 2017

Several groups, led by the American Lung Association and the American Public Health Association, filed a lawsuit over EPA’s missed deadline to identify non-attainment areas under the 2015 national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone that were set at 70 parts per billion (ppb). The lawsuit wants the court to compel the Agency to designate those non-attainment areas.

EPA was supposed to issue its decision on non-attainment areas by October 1, so states and localities could begin to determine how they would bring those areas into compliance. However, the Agency did publish the list of “attainment/unclassifiable” areas early last month.

“Two months ago, we filed a 60-day intent to sue over the EPA’s failure to meet the October deadline to release ozone nonattainment designations. Today, we are following through in the hopes that this will compel the EPA and Administrator Scott Pruitt to do their job,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “While the EPA has released the list of communities currently in attainment of the 2015 ozone standard, delaying the remaining critical information is putting people's health and lives at risk, especially those in our most vulnerable communities, including children, older adults, and those with lung disease.”

EPA's ozone standard does not directly regulate businesses. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), states must comply with the ozone standard, triggering state-imposed requirements for businesses that emit nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds to install new or better pollution control equipment.  

EPA’s Obama-era limit was at the high end of the range it had proposed between 60 and 70 parts per billion. The previous level of 75 parts per billion level was established in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration.

The Obama ozone rule has been widely criticized by both industry and environmental groups. Industry views the rule as overly burdensome and unnecessary, while the environmental groups believe that the rule does not set the ozone level low enough to effectively protect human health.