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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Environmental Protection Agency

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20275
Nos. 12-1321, (D.C. Cir., 12/23/2014)

The D.C. Circuit held that EPA's regulations implementing the 2008 NAAQS for ozone exceed the Agency’s authority under the CAA. In 2008, EPA revised and strengthened the standards for ozone pursuant to the CAA. One of the revisions extended the deadline for some regions to attain the new standards—roughly a one-third increase in time for certain areas, amounting to an additional year. EPA also revoked transportation conformity requirements for areas that had yet to attain governing ozone standards or that had recently come into attainment but remained under obligations aimed to prevent any reversion to nonattainment status. The court ruled that EPA exceeded its authority with respect to both of these changes. With regard to the attainment deadlines, the CAA simply does not allow the Agency to lengthen the period of time to achieve compliance with revised air quality standards. Indeed, the last time EPA issued revised standards for ozone, EPA itself declined to extend the attainment periods in essentially the same way it now proposes, concluding that such an adjustment could not be squared with the statute. With regard to the revocation of transportation conformity requirements, the CAA clearly requires maintaining those requirements for affected areas. If it were otherwise, a region that had yet to demonstrate an enduring ability to meet ozone standards would be free to undertake transportation projects that would increase emissions substantially beyond the levels permitted in the area’s approved air-quality plan, undercutting the CAA's objectives. The court therefore vacated those portions of the regulations.