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Obama-era air pollution rule enforcement pushed back by EPA

June 8th, 2017 by Dakota Software Staff Industry News

Obama-era air pollution rule enforcement pushed back by EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a significant delay to a major Obama-era air pollution rule. The action, one of many aiming to change, mitigate, delay or entirely remove environmental regulations developed under the previous administration, was announced by EPA chief administrator Scott Pruitt in early June. While enforcement of the rule was only delayed and the underlying regulations weren't changed in any meaningful way, the decision is still a major difference for states that could be found not compliant as well as businesses within their borders.

A yearlong delay for ozone pollution decision-making

The original framework of the rule called for the EPA to make initial determinations about compliance or lack thereof in states during June, with those choices made formal during the fall, The Hill reported. According to E&E News, the impetus behind the decision was to give state governments more time to develop effective air quality plans. The EPA also expressed a desire to develop accountability measures for ozone released from non-regulated sources and more completely understand the function of background ozone.

Pruitt said he believed current progress toward improving air quality is strong. The EPA also said it used a component of the Clean Air Act that allows for delays in implementation if more information is needed to make decisions as justification for the rule.

"States have made tremendous progress and significant investment cleaning up the air. We will continue to work with states to ensure they are on a path to compliance," Pruitt said in a statement shared by The Hill. "We are committed to working with states and local officials to effectively implement the ozone standard in a manner that is supportive of air quality improvement efforts without interfering with local decisions or impeding economic growth."

The current ozone standard was set in 2015, when then-EPA chief administrator Gina McCarthy implemented a stricter limit of 70 parts per billion with public health concerns in mind. It was previously lowered to 75 parts per billion. That older standard could prevail if the EPA continues to delay and eventually dismantles the current rule.

Environmentalist groups have already said they will challenge the delay through the courts, with the Natural Resources Defense Council calling the delay flagrantly illegal, according to E& News. The NRDC said a lawsuit is forthcoming, although it hasn't yet been filed.

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