Attempting to regain momentum after a federal court decision, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now plans to move forward with NOx limits by separating its one-hour ozone standard from its eight-hour ozone standard.
On May 14th, a federal appeals court blocked implementation of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) by remanding the eight-hour ozone and fine (PM-2.5) particulate matter standards back to EPA, citing it for acting unconstitutionally. The court said Congress had not given EPA the power that it exercised in the rulemaking.
Referring to the court`s decision, EPA`s administrator, Carol M. Browner, said, “I`m pleased that the Department of Justice will formally appeal one of the most bizarre and extreme decisions ever rendered in the annals of environmental jurisprudence.”
Petitions submitted by eight northeast states under section 126 of the Clean Air Act requested EPA to find that sources of NOx located in the Midwest and Southeast were significant contributors to their increased levels of ozone. EPA`s approval of many of these petitions was based on the agency`s now remanded eight-hour ozone standard.
On June 11, EPA temporarily stayed the effectiveness of its final action on section 126 petitions submitted by eight northeastern states. The stay is effective until November 30 and separates the section 126 petitions from the recent court decisions so that EPA can proceed with regional reductions of ozone under the one-hour standard.
In late May, the same court granted a motion to suspend the NOx State Implementation Plan (SIP) filing deadline until the court could rule on the merits of challenges to EPA`s rule. The SIP could have required 22 eastern states and the District of Columbia to reduce NOx emissions by about 85 percent.
EPA`s NOx SIP is on hold while the court`s decision is appealed due to the remanded eight-hour ozone standard, which acts as a central tenet in the regulation.