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Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20146
Nos. No. 04-1323, (D.C. Cir., 06/19/2007)

The court vacated portions of two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that regulate hazardous air pollution from processing plywood and composite wood products (PCWPs). The 2004 rule set emission standards for PCWPs and created a PCWP “low risk” subcategory, pursuant to Clean Air Act (CAA) §112(c)(9)(B), that includes sources that met the statutory criteria and additional requirements, such as annual emissions testing and reporting. The 2006 rule reset the 2004 rule's maximum achievable control technology standard compliance date from October 1, 2007, to October 1, 2008. An environmental group filed suit, challenging EPA’s failure to set emission standards for listed hazardous air pollutants that PCWP plants emit in the 2004 rule. EPA declined to do so on the rationale that these pollutants are not controlled with technology. However, the fact that one form of control does not control emissions does not excuse EPA from finding other means to achieve that result. EPA's interpretation of CAA §112(c)(9) as allowing it to exempt the risk-based subcategory is contrary to the plain language of the statute. In addition, EPA lacked authority to extend the compliance deadline in the 2006 rule because only the 2004 rule created emission standards. Hence, CAA §112(i)(3)(A) requires the compliance date to be set no more than three years after the standard was created. In addition, the environmental group had standing because their members' enjoyment of the outdoors was impeded by emissions from the plywood facilities.