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  • Writer's pictureTom Petersen

D.C. Circuit Court Upholds Clean Air Standards

Updated: Aug 28, 2023


”The signal from the court is clear — EPA’s clean air standards will protect Americans from the wide variety of health problems that air pollution can cause, such as respiratory illnesses and premature death. The D.C. Circuit Court today rejected all remaining challenges to EPA’s 1997 protective ambient air standards for fine particles (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog). Now, EPA will move forward with programs to implement those standards and help states meet them. ”

‘Today’s unanimous decision 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 President has put forward an ambitious plan — the Clear Skies initiative — to reduce power plant emissions of three key pollutants by 70 percent. Today’s court ruling strengthens the case for the President’s initiative by affirming EPA’s approach to regulating emissions that cause smog and acid rain.”

”The Court rejected the claim that EPA acted arbitrarily in setting the national ambient air quality standards. In a unanimous decision 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. The President’s Clear Skies initiative for power plants, when enacted, will help make significant strides toward meeting both of these clean air 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 that EPA 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.

”EPA’s new standards were challenged by the American Trucking Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other state and business groups. In February 2001 the 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. Today’s decision rejected the remaining claims that EPA’s decision was arbitrary and capricious and not supported by the evidence.”

Prepared by: Dave Ryan 202-564-7827,

Number 19



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