Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards

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Why it Matters

Ground-level ozone, or smog, is formed when pollution from vehicles, power plants, and other industrial sources reacts with sunlight. It can aggravate asthma and cause other respiratory problems, especially in children who are playing outdoors and people who already have lung problems. Stricter ozone standards were set to take effect October 1, 2017

Current Status

On November 16, 2017 EPA certified some 2,650 areas as in compliance (or in attainment) of the rule. It did not designate any non-attainment areas or release a timeline for doing so. On December 4-5, 2017 multiple states and a coalition of environmental and public health groups sued EPA for its failure to designate non-attainment areas. On December 19, 2017 the D.C. Circuit Court ordered EPA to “file a status report identifying with precision and specificity when it plans to file a final rule establishing air quality designations…” by January 12, 2018 for the areas which were not covered by the attainment designations.

On December 22, 2017 EPA announced it sent letters to areas not covered by the attainment designations, seeking further information from them in order to make a designation, with a 120-day deadline for response. On January 5, 2018 EPA published notice that it will make the remaining attainment designations by April 30, 2018 (with the exception of 8 Texas counties, which will be designated by August 10, 2018).

On March 12, 2018 a Northern District of California District Court ruled that EPA could not delay the Texas counties, or any others, and must make all designations by July 17, 2018.

On March 30, 2018 EPA published notice that it will finish designations for the Texas counties by the court ordered deadline, and lists an intended designation for each area. The notice is open for public comment until April 30, 2018. 

History

On October 26, 2015 EPA issued a rule to tighten national ozone pollution standards based on the latest science. The new standards were set to take effect October 1, 2017.

Murray Energy sued EPA on September 14, 2016, challenging the new standards. –Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA, Case No. 15-1385 (D.C. Cir.)

On November 17, 2016 EPA proposed nonattainment classification thresholds and compliance timelines for the 2015 rule.

Trump Era

On April 7, 2017 EPA asked the Court to delay the oral argument scheduled for April 19, 2017. EPA said it “intends to closely review the 2015 Rule, and the prior positions taken by the Agency with respect to the 2015 Rule may not necessarily reflect its ultimate conclusions after that review is complete.”

On April 11, 2017 the Court removed the argument from its calendar, and ordered EPA to provide status reports every 90 days, starting from the date of this order.

On June 6, 2017 EPA Administrator Pruitt announced EPA would delay the new standards by one year.

On June 28, 2017, EPA published a formal notice in the Federal Register that it would delay implementation of the ozone standard by one year to October 1, 2018.

On July 12, 2017 Environmental groups sued EPA over the delay of the ozone rule. American Lung Association et al v. EPA, Case No. 17-1172 (D.C. Cir.).

On August 1, 2017 the Attorney General of New York announced he and 15 others were suing EPA over the delay of the rule.

In an August 2, 2017 press release EPA announced it would walk back the national delay and proceed as originally scheduled.

October 1, 2017 was the deadline for EPA to make all compliance determinations.

On November 16, 2017 EPA certified some 2,650 areas as in compliance (or in attainment) of the rule. It did not designate any non-attainment areas or release a timeline for doing so, which is necessary “start the clock for states to come up with cleanup plans.” 

On December 4, 2017 a coalition of public health and environmental groups sued EPA for its delay of designating non-attainment areas.

On December 5, 2017 New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman announced he and 13 other state attorneys general and the District of Columbia sued EPA for its failure to designate non-attainment areas. – Northern District of California, Case 3:17-cv-06936

On December 19, 2017 the D.C. Circuit Court ordered EPA to “file a status report identifying with precision and specificity when it plans to file a final rule establishing air quality designations…” by January 12, 2018 for the areas which were not covered by the attainment designations made on November 16, 2017.

On December 22, 2017 EPA announced it sent letters to areas not covered by the attainment designations, seeking further information from them in order to make a designation, with a 120-day deadline for response.

On January 5, 2018 EPA published notice that it will make the remaining attainment designations by April 30, 2018.

On January 19, 2018 EPA filed declarations with both the Northern District of California and D.C Circuit stating it will make all remaining attainment designations by April 30, 2018 with the exception of eight counties in the San Antonio, TX area (which it will designate by August 10, 2018).

On February 7, 2018 a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court ordered EPA to file a progress report by May 15, 2018 “detailing the status of all final designations for the 2015 ozone national ambient air quality standards.”

On March 1, 2018 EPA issued a final rule setting the compliance timelines for areas in nonattainment and “establishing the air quality thresholds that define the classifications assigned to all nonattainment areas” which were proposed in 2016 by the Obama EPA. The rule will take effect on May 8, 2018.

On March 12, 2018 a Northern District of California District Court ruled that EPA could not delay the Texas counties, or any others, and must make all designations by July 17, 2018.

On March 30, 2018 EPA published notice that it will finish designations for the Texas counties by the court ordered deadline, and lists an intended designation for each area. The notice is open for public comment until April 30, 2018. 

For More Information

For more on the history of this rule see its entry the Columbia University Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s database. Also see Sabin’s Climate Deregulation Tracker for additional updates.

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