WASHINGTON – Earlier this week, 15 states, including Minnesota, filed a legal challenge over the Trump administration’s new timeline for dealing with air pollutants. Now Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is backtracking on plans to delay the compliance deadline.
In June, Pruitt announced plans to delay the deadline to comply with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), an outdoor air regulation under the Clean Air Act. Pruitt cited “insufficient information” as reason for the delay, saying his agency needed an additional year to study and reconsider the Obama-era rules reducing emissions of air pollutants before moving forward with state compliance.
“We share the goal of clean air, a robust economy and stronger, healthier communities,” Pruitt said in a statement. “We are committed to working with states and local officials to effectively implement the ozone standard in a manner that is supportive of air quality improvement efforts without interfering with local decisions or impeding economic growth.”
This week, attorneys general from 15 states, including Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, pushed back on Pruitt’s delay of the Obama-era rules, filing a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. One day after being sued, Pruitt is now backtracking on his plans to delay the rollout.
At issue is the October 1 deadline for states to comply with updated air pollution standards. The regulation tasks states with lowering the ground-level ozone level in the air from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. According to the EPA, recent studies show ozone at 72 parts per billion is harmful to adults exercising outdoors.
“Under previous administrations, EPA would often fail to meet designation deadlines, and then wait to be sued by activist groups and others, agreeing in a settlement to set schedules for designation,” Pruitt said. “We do not believe in regulation through litigation, and we take deadlines seriously. We also take the statute and the authority it gives us seriously.”
Pruitt made no mention of the lawsuit.
Despite Pruitt reinstating the original October 1 deadline, Congress could still override the decision. Republicans in the House recently passed a bill that would delay the regulation at least eight years. The Senate has not voted on the measure.