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Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20043
Nos. 12-1342, (D.C. Cir., 03/20/2018)

The D.C. Circuit upheld EPA's 2012 regional haze rule, which seeks to restore air quality and visibility in certain national parks and wilderness areas to what they would be under natural conditions. The rule requires states to impose best available retrofit technology (BART) on certain stationary pollution sources—usually electric generation plants—installed before August 1977. The rule also allows states to pursue alternative approaches, including EPA-approved regional approaches to capping and trading emissions, to reduce haze if those approaches meet EPA’s regulatory definition of being “better-than-BART.” The 2012 rule specified that requirements set forth in the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) were stringent and effective enough for it to serve as a better-than-BART alternative for states participating in CSAPR, thus excusing those states from compliance with BART itself. The rule also disapproved portions of certain SIPs designed to achieve reasonable progress under the regional haze rule because those plans relied on a soon-to-be-defunct predecessor of CSAPR, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). Instead, EPA promulgated federal implementation plans to address haze levels in the disapproved states until those states could submit SIPs that relied on CSAPR or otherwise demonstrated a local alternative better than BART. Conservation groups challenged portions of the rule that allowed states to treat CSAPR compliance as a better-than-BART alternative. State and industry petitioners challenged EPA’s disapproval of SIPs relying on CAIR as a better-than-BART alternative. But the court upheld the rule in its entirety. The arguments brought by the conservation groups lacked merit, and the state and industry petitioners' arguments were moot. The petitions were therefore denied.