The EPA has changed plans to delay the implementation of Obama administration regulations to reduce air pollution that causes smog, following a lawsuit by 16 states.
EPA chief Scott Pruitt had previously said the agency would delay the October 1st implementation of a regulation that would reduce the level of ozone emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. He had said “underlying complexities, methodological and information questions” meant that workers would miss the deadline for the rule.
However, the new statement said he would instead work “with the states through the complex designation process.”
He added that the Clean Air Act does allow the EPA the “the flexibility to allow one additional year for sufficient information to support ozone designations,” and said his agency may take “future action to use its delay authority.”
He did not mention the lawsuit by states such as New York, California, Washington, Vermont, Oregon and Rhode Island.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who joined the lawsuit, described it as a victory.
“On Tuesday, we sued the EPA for blocking vital clean air protections. Last night, the EPA reversed course, withdrawing Administrator Pruitt’s year-long delay of these critical smog regulations,” he said.
“One in three New Yorkers breathe dangerous smog levels. The EPA’s reversal — following our lawsuits – is an important win for the health and safety of the 6.7 million New Yorkers, and the over 115 million Americans, directly impacted by smog pouring into their communities.”
The new regulation would lower the limit for ground-level ozone, produced from the chemical reaction between sunlight and pollution from cars, oil refineries, and industrial plants, from 75 parts per billion to 70. Such pollution has been linked to asthma and other diseases that can prove fatal or require hospitalization. According to the EPA, the drop in the costs of emergency room visits, ambulances, and hospitalization would compensate for the 1.5 billion dollar cost of the implementing the new rule.
Environmental advocates expressed relief at the EPA’s decision to not delay implementation of the rule.
An attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, Peter Zalzal, said:
“As he has before, Administrator Pruitt took an action that presented a clear and present danger to public health, and he did it without public input and without consideration of the consequences. While we welcome this corrective action, we are deeply concerned about the threat that … Pruitt’s actions present to the fundamental right to clean healthy air.”