- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

The Environmental Protection Agency says it now has "a clear path" to requiring tougher air-pollution health standards after winning a five-year legal fight over one of the most controversial Clinton-era environmental regulations.
A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected the final industry challenges to regulations first issued in 1997 that require states and local governments to meet more stringent air-quality standards.
The standards will require tougher controls on smog-causing chemicals and microscopic soot that the EPA considers harmful to small children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems.
"EPA now has a clear path to move forward to ensure that all Americans can breathe cleaner air," EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said after the ruling Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The tougher health standards have been in limbo for years after they were issued by the EPA during the Clinton administration. The regulations were quickly challenged by a wide range of business groups, utilities and the trucking industry, as well as three states.
The legal fight made its way to the Supreme Court, which a year ago upheld the new EPA standards. But opponents raised yet another challenge, arguing the EPA had acted arbitrarily in setting the new standards an argument the appeals court rejected.
The long legal fight shows "how industry can throw everything it has against a public health standard and in the course of doing so they managed to delay this process for many years," said Howard Fox, an attorney for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, who represented the American Lung Association in the litigation.
Mrs. Whitman, who as governor of New Jersey had embraced the new air-quality rules when they were first issued, said that the EPA now plans to work with states and local governments to develop pollution-control programs to meet the new requirements.
Air quality in scores of counties across the country will be unable to meet the new health standards. Officials will have to find ways to reduce the amount of smog-causing chemicals and fine soot going into the air to come into federal compliance.
Business and industrial groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and the American Trucking Associations, had argued the new air standards are not based on good science and would be too costly to the economy.
The Supreme Court disagreed and concluded that the EPA had acted reasonably and within its authority, that its science was sound and that under the Clean Air Act it need not take into account costs when issuing a health standard.
The end of the legal fight "is a significant victory in EPA's ongoing efforts to protect the health of millions of Americans from the dangers of air pollution," Mrs. Whitman said.
The new health standards were originally issued by Carol Browner, Mrs. Whitman's predecessor as EPA chief.
While the current air-quality health standards for smog-causing ozone and soot is protective to the majority of people, the EPA concluded they do not adequately protect vulnerable segments of the population such as small children, the elderly and those swith asthma or other respiratory ailments.
The 1997 standards limited ozone, a major component of smog, to 0.08 parts per million instead of 0.12 parts per million under the old requirement. It also reduced the monitoring period from 12 hours to eight hours.
States and local authorities also were required to limit microscopic soot from power plants, cars and other sources down to 2.5 microns in diameter, or 28 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

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