Federal court ruling could produce fresh air in more ways than one
Friday, October 04, 2019
From fossil fuel extraction to wilderness and pollution protections, legal environmental battles continue to be a most memorable Trump-era hallmark. While it’s a mixed bag of tricks overall, a recent federal ruling upholding EPA standards provides a breath of fresh air in ongoing environmental struggles that require staying power in the epic battle against climate catastrophe.
Recently, pollution reduction requirements for states producing smog that “travels” across state lines were upheld among a three-judge panel in a federal appeals court.
The Obama era’s “signature policy” — the Clean Power Plan — will continue to require coal-burning states producing smog to reduce their “downwind pollution” that exceeds the 2008 ozone standards set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) at a one-hour level of 75 parts per billion.
Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tried to circumvent cost-effective smog reduction measures — as if they already met federal compliance — until the recent case challenged the so-called “Close-Out Rule,” further requiring anti-pollution actions.
This case was initiated in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut because the upwind states could not complete the Good Neighbor Provisions of the Clean Air Act’s requirements.
The “nonattaining states” would have been excused under the Trump era Close-Out Rule. This recent ruling requires EPA-backed state action, and soon: “The EPA acknowledges that under the rule, upwind states will continue contributing significantly to downwind nonattainment in 2021.”
This is a partial victory for the environment, as a new Trump rule is held in question but not yet “vacated,” or dismissed. The EPA has until Oct. 28 to challenge the panel ruling, which should be interpreted as still requiring upwind states standard attainment actions by the 2021 deadline.
Air pollution regulations also remain contentious all over the U.S. Take California's situation.
The state’s cars and light trucks emissions standards were earlier revoked by the EPA. Now, the Golden State has joined two dozen other states for their right to uphold higher air pollution reduction standards.
This comes at a time when the costly GM strike reminds us that stakes are high as companies transition to cleaner fuel and hybrid vehicles, streamlining labor at the behest of working families’ survival. The auto emissions case will be watched closely and is certainly strengthened by the East Coast federal panel ruling.
One silver lining on the smoggy cloud is that states are growing stronger together as they fight the top-down federal attack on local environmental problems. The old environmental saying of, “We are all downwind” couldn’t be more relevant here, as youth lead the climate action charge against the status quo of corporate and governmental entities held responsible for the climate crisis
Original groundwater and air-pollution standards formed the basis of the earliest EPA standards, first set in 1970. These standards were initially deemed inadequate to the task of the early environmental movement’s maximized, even utopian, ecological standards. Paradoxically, decades after the first Earth Day in 1970, environmental groups and courts fight together simply to maintain earlier regulatory standards.
A fossil fuel-based extraction economy is the common enemy in all EPA-related cases. This requires nothing short of a total paradigm shift from dependency on finite dirty energy sources to more infinite (although by no means totally clean) sustainable water, wind and solar sources.
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