Monday, June 17, 2019

Federal judge rules Pruitt ‘knowingly’ violated Ozone Standards law

"This is a victory for everyone who breathes, and is clear evidence that Scott Pruitt's frequent attempts to delay and obstruct federal clean air safeguards is against the law."

Image Credit: UPI

Scott Pruitt is in violation of the law under the Clean Air Act. A recent ruling passed down by a federal judge in California on Monday determined the administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knowingly missed a deadline to implement the ozone pollution rule.

“There is no dispute as to liability: Defendants admit that the Administrator violated his nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act,” Federal District Court Judge Haywood Stirling Gilliam Jr. wrote in a court filing by the Justice Department.

According to the judgement, Pruitt “failed to perform a non-discretionary duty” when he missed the October 1, 2017 deadline in which he was obligated to identify which areas in the United States have smog levels that violate the nation’s ozone – a 2015 Obama-era implemented Ozone Standards rule. The judge ordered Pruitt “to promulgate final designations for all areas of the country except for the eight undesignated counties composing the San Antonio area no later than April 30, 2018.” The final designations for the San Antonio area are due 127 days from when the order was filed on March 12.

Pruitt openly announced his intent to miss the October deadline last June and instead stall it by a year, but the following day he “reversed course,” according to Reuters, without mention of his willingness to then honor it. While Pruitt missed the October deadline, he “subsequently announced findings only for areas in compliance, not those out of compliance,” ThinkProgress reported.

The lawsuit, which was filed against Pruitt in December after the EPA missed the deadline by the nonprofit environmental law organization, Earthjustice, was represented by a number of environmental and health groups along with sixteen state attorneys general.

“Everyone deserves to breathe clean air. And because of the Clean Air Act, we’re legally entitled to it. The court got it right when it ordered the EPA to finish making ozone designations sooner than the agency requested,” Seth Johnson, attorney who represented Earthjustice in the case, said in a statement.

Another environmental group hailed the ruling as life-saving.

“This is a victory for everyone who breathes, and is clear evidence that Scott Pruitt’s frequent attempts to delay and obstruct federal clean air safeguards is against the law,” Mary Anne Hitt, the director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said. “The severity of Pruitt’s attempts [is] a matter of life and death. Delaying the implementation of these life saving smog standards puts the health of thousands of kids at risk.”

Liz Bowman, the EPA spokeswoman said the agency is working to implement the smog standards.

“We look forward to working with co-regulators to continue the designations process for the 2015 standards for ground-level ozone; we are evaluating the information provided by governors in February 2018 as part of that process,” Bowman said in an email to Reuters.

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