Federal court orders EPA to set stronger smog standards

The EPA “must go back and fix its mistakes so cherished natural spaces like national parks can thrive.”

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Image Credit: Greentech Media

The Environmental Protection Agency has failed to set proper regulations on smog and must improve its air quality standards ruled a federal appeals court last week.

In a case fought between Murray Energy Corporation, a massive coal company, and Earthjustice, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed massive amounts of scientific evidence to determine if the EPA’s current air quality standards were sufficient.

The court ruled that current air quality standards for the ozone are too weak to protect the environment and do not meet basic federal requirements for protecting human health.

Although the case is a great win, unfortunately the court only fully recognized the scientific evidence of air pollution on forests and other natural landscapes.

“We are disappointed that the court failed to recognize the overwhelming scientific evidence showing ozone’s potential to cause premature death, difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing, and asthma attacks at levels previously considered safe,” Harold P. Wimmer, CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a statement. “Such evidence demands that EPA adopt stronger, more protective standards, not backslide on the progress being made toward cleaning up the air we breathe.”

The case was important in highlighting how effective strong scientific evidence can be when arguing during a trial.

“As President Trump’s EPA considers weakening science-based protections, that fact should give the agency pause as it goes out of its way to either dismantle science advisory boards, or fire independent scientists and replace them with fossil fuel lobbyists,” said Senator Tom Carper, a member of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, in a statement.

Murray Energy also attempted to argue that the EPA should consider costs incurred by industry groups and corporations when they are forced to comply with new and updated regulations. The court rejected this argument, stating “The plain text of the [Clean Air] Act unambiguously bars cost considerations.”

Seth Johnson, the attorney who worked the case on behalf of Earthjustice was positive about its outcome. The EPA “must go back and fix its mistakes so cherished natural spaces like national parks can thrive,” he said after the ruling.

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