U.S. Supreme Court denies industry challenge to ground-level ozone health standard

October 6, 2014
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – October 6, 2014) The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection today of legal challenges to the national, health-based air quality standard for ground-level ozone is an important step forward for clean air and for public health, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).  It is also critical that EPA fully carry out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to further strengthen our nation’s public health protections against ground-level ozone. 

The Supreme Court today rejected further attempts by the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG), a coalition of coal-based power companies, to weaken the standard for ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog.   

“Millions of Americans are harmed by smog pollution and the Court’s decision is a welcome end to efforts by large coal-based power companies to derail vital clean air protections for our communities and families,” said EDF Senior Attorney Peter Zalzal.  

Smog is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects, including asthma attacks, decreased lung function and premature death. Children, older Americans, and those with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially at risk.

In July of 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2008 ground-level ozone standard of 75 parts per billion.  Industry groups had sought to weaken that standard despite a unanimous recommendation of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee that, on the basis of the best scientific data, EPA should have adopted a more protective standard than it did – in the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion.

In April, UARG petitioned the Supreme Court to review and reverse the decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (UARG v. EPA, No. 13-1235). Today’s decision denying that petition ends any further legal challenges to the nation’s 2008 health-based standard for ground-level ozone. Several organizations, including American Lung Association and Earthjustice as well as EDF, vigorously opposed UARG’s legal claims in the Court of Appeals 

EPA is now in the process of reviewing the adequacy of the 2008 ground-level ozone standard to protect human health. EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee has again recommended that the agency establish a standard in the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion. 

“Since 2008, additional scientific evidence has only further confirmed that a more rigorous standard for ground-level ozone is necessary to protect public health,” said Zalzal. “It is critical that the EPA move forward with health-protective standards based on the best available scientific information.” 

EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to issue proposed national health standards on December 1 of this year. 

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