AIR POLLUTION:

EPA drops objections to court case over Bush smog plan

Now that it has scrapped a plan to further tighten the smog limits set by U.S. EPA under President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has told a federal court that it has no problem with reopening the litigation over that standard in court.

The rules, which were finalized in 2008, face lawsuits from both flanks.

States and public health groups sued EPA over the ground-level ozone standard of 75 parts per billion, planning to argue that it wasn't as strong as science advisers said was needed to protect people. And several industries that release smog-forming emissions -- among them, groups representing homebuilders and power companies -- sued to make the case that the plan was too costly.

Both sets of groups should be told to make their opening arguments 60 days after the court decides to resume the court case, attorneys from the Justice Department said in a filing late yesterday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The litigation will likely put EPA's attorneys in an awkward position.

Earlier this summer, after submitting a final plan to tighten the standards to the White House for review, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the step was necessary because the Bush-era standards were "not legally defensible."

The litigation will decide whether the Bush-era standards remain on the books. And it remains unclear whether EPA will take steps toward putting them in place, or will wait until the next scheduled review of the ozone standards, which is due in two years.

"Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013," President Obama said in a statement earlier this month. "Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered."

Click here to read the filing.

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