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Court Upholds 2015 Ozone Standards

A federal appeals court recently rejected industry and state challenges to a set of Obama-era air quality standards, which the Institute for Policy Integrity had filed an amicus brief defending. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthened National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, the primary ingredient in urban smog and the source of a variety of respiratory ills. The coal mining company Murray Energy Corporation, along with trade associations and several state attorneys general, brought suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, arguing that the new standards were unnecessarily stringent and impossible to achieve. We filed an amicus brief in support of the standards.

In our brief, we detailed why objections to the standards on cost-benefit grounds were meritless. Under a landmark Supreme Court decision, EPA is barred from taking costs into account when setting NAAQS. But even if the agency had weighed costs and benefits during the standard-setting process, it would not have ended up with weaker ozone limits. On the contrary, cost-benefit analysis would have justified even more stringent standards than EPA set under its purely health-based approach.

The appeals court’s decision is consistent with our arguments. Jack Lienke explained in E&E News that the ruling will make it extremely difficult for the Trump administration to weaken ozone standards in the future.