Monday, July 23, 2012

Nat'l Envtl. Dev. Ass'n's Clean Air Project v. EPA

Jan 20: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case No. 10-1252, consolidated with 10-1254, 10-1255, 10-1256, 10-1258, 10-1259, 11-1073, 11-1080, 11-1081, 11-1090, 11-1092. On Petitions for Review of a Final Action of the U.S. EPA. The Appeals Court summarizes saying, "Several states and state regulatory agencies, together with corporations and industrial associations, petition for review of the Environmental Protection Agency's rule entitled 'Primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Sulfur Dioxide,' and of the subsequent denial of petitions for reconsideration of the standard. Petitioners contend, first, that EPA failed to follow notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures, and second, that the agency arbitrarily set the maximum sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentration at a level lower than statutorily authorized. For the reasons discussed more fully below, we conclude that the challenge to the rulemaking procedure is not within our jurisdiction and must be dismissed. We further conclude that EPA did not act arbitrarily in setting the level of SO2 emissions and therefore deny that portion of the petitions for review.
    Sulfur dioxide, a "highly reactive colorless gas," derives mostly from fossil fuel combustion. It smells like rotting eggs and, at elevated concentrations in the air, can cause acid rain. Its presence in the ambient air can cause adverse health effects,
particularly in asthmatics. After receiving comments on its rule proposal, EPA issued a final rule addressing the primary SO2 standard. 75 Fed. Reg. 35520 (June 22, 2010). EPA mandated that States must meet a new 1-hour SO2 standard using a 99th percentile form, set at 75 ppb maximum SO2 concentration. Also, EPA indicated in the rule, "we are revising our general anticipated approach toward implementation of the new 1-hour NAAQS." Instead of assessing attainment of the standard primarily by monitoring the ambient air, as it had stated it would in the proposed rule, EPA suggested it would use a "hybrid analytic approach" that would combine monitoring with computer modeling to determine compliance.
    Petitioners allege two errors in the EPA's proceedings. All Petitioners contend that EPA violated the notice-and-comment rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 553, by mandating a hybrid modeling-monitoring implementation approach rather than a monitoring-only approach. Only the nonstate petitioners bring the second challenge, contending that the Agency's decision to set the new 1-hour SO2 standard at 75 ppb was arbitrary and capricious.
    Regarding the modeling concerns, the Appeals Court indicates, "EPA explained that it expected to make initial attainment designations in 2012 based on existing monitoring capabilities, as well as 'any refined modeling the State chooses to conduct specifically for initial area designations.' 75 Fed. Reg. at 35552. That language does not impose new legal obligations to use modeling. To be sure, because EPA now intends to use this hybrid approach, it has scaled back its proposed plans to develop a more extensive monitoring network. . . Petitioners do not argue, however, that they have suffered an injury by not being required to build a more extensive monitoring network. Petitioners will be free to challenge any final action EPA takes that imposes an obligation Petitioners must meet. The challenged provisions here do not meet that standard."
    Regarding the standard, the Appeals Court rules in part, "Nothing in the CAA requires EPA to give the current air quality such a controlling role in setting NAAQS. And as Petitioners themselves note, the CAA gives EPA significant discretion to decide whether to revise NAAQS. Further, in the final rule, EPA cites evidence that current levels of SO2 in the ambient air, even when the air quality meets the current SO2 NAAQS, still cause respiratory effects in some areas. 75 Fed. Reg. at 35530-31. In short, EPA had discretion to revise the NAAQS and Petitioners' argument is unavailing."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Air, #CADC]
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