Quantcast

Court Rules Pruitt Broke the Law for Smog Rule Delay

Popular
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. BipHoo Company / Flickr

A federal judge ruled Monday that Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), broke the law for failing to implement his agency's ozone pollution rule.

Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said Pruitt violated the Clean Air Act for failing to announce by Oct. 1, 2017 which areas in the country have unhealthy levels of smog, a rule set by the 2015 ozone standard.


According to The Hill, Pruitt only announced findings for areas that complied with the Obama-era rule, but not for areas out of compliance. The EPA boss initially tried to stall the Oct. 1 deadline by a year but reversed course.

"There is no dispute as to liability: Defendants admit that the administrator violated his nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act to promulgate by October 1, 2017, initial area air quality designations," Gilliam wrote, citing a Justice Department court filing in January that acknowledged the EPA failed to meet the deadline.

Gilliam ordered the EPA to finish the process for the entire country by April 30, with the exemption of areas in San Antonio, Texas, which the agency must comply with shortly thereafter.

In 2015, the Obama administration strengthened standards for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion based on extensive scientific evidence about the effect of smog on public health and welfare. Smog can exacerbate asthma attacks for children and vulnerable populations.

Sixteen state attorneys general as well as a broad coalition of health and environmental organizations—including the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club—sued Pruitt in December for failing to meet the deadline for designating areas.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led the litigation, celebrated Monday's decision.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admitted in this case that it failed to do its job and meet its deadline under the Clean Air Act," he said. "The stakes are high. The smog-reducing requirements at issue will save hundreds of lives and prevent 230,000 asthma attacks among children. That's worth fighting for."

New York Attorney General Schneiderman, one of the AGs who sued the administration, added: "We'll keep a close eye on the EPA's compliance with today's order, and our coalition stands ready to act to protect our residents and our states from Washington's toxic policies."

Environmental groups also celebrated the ruling.

"Everyone deserves to breathe clean air. And because of the Clean Air Act, we're legally entitled to it. The court got it right when it ordered the EPA to finish making ozone designations sooner than the agency requested," said attorney Seth Johnson, who represented Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the groups. "Cleaning up ozone air pollution is especially important for kids, seniors, and people with asthma. Many of our largest metropolitan areas have unhealthy smog levels. These include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Antonio. The court's decision will help save hundreds of lives by getting the cleanup process going."

Mary Anne Hitt, the director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, had a similar sentiment. "This is a victory for everyone who breathes, and is clear evidence that Scott Pruitt's frequent attempts to delay and obstruct federal clean air safeguards is against the law. The severity of Pruitt's attempts [is] a matter of life and death. Delaying the implementation of these life saving smog standards puts the health of thousands of kids at risk."

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told Reuters, "We look forward to working with co-regulators to continue the designations process for the 2015 standards for ground-level ozone; we are evaluating the information provided by governors in February 2018 as part of that process."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A verdant and productive urban garden in Havana. Susanne Bollinger / Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

When countries run short of food, they need to find solutions fast, and one answer can be urban farming.

Read More Show Less
Trevor Noah appears on set during a taping of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" in New York on Nov. 26, 2018. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah / YouTube screenshot

By Lakshmi Magon

This year, three studies showed that humor is useful for engaging the public about climate change. The studies, published in The Journal of Science Communication, Comedy Studies and Science Communication, added to the growing wave of scientists, entertainers and politicians who agree.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
rhodesj / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cities around the country are considering following the lead of Berkeley, California, which became the first city to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes this summer.

Read More Show Less
Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less