Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, announced in June that his department would delay implementation of an Obama administration smog pollution rule. A day after 15 states and DC filed a lawsuit against the EPA for the rule’s suspension, Pruitt walked back the agency’s effort.
In a statement, Pruitt said that the agency sought to work with the states suing the agency. “We believe in dialogue with, and being responsive to, our state partners,” Pruitt said. “Today’s action reinforces our commitment to working with the states through the complex designation process.”
The Obama era rule Pruitt sought to delay lowered the amount of acceptable ground-level ozone in the air from 75 parts per billion to 70. Citing a section of the Clean Air Act that allows the agency to pause implementation of rules if there is inadequate information to support its necessity, Pruitt intended to delay the rule’s enforcement by a year.
But it appears that Pruitt doesn’t actually have the authority to delay the regulation under the Clean Air Act. A spokesman for Earthjustice, which a filed a similar lawsuit against the EPA last year, told The Hill that the new lawsuit essentially called Pruitt’s bluff.
From The Hill:
“The EPA’s hasty retreat shows that public health and environmental organizations and 16 states across the country were right: the agency had no legal basis for delaying implementation of the 2015 smog standard,” said Seth Johnson, an attorney with the group. “Implementing the safer 2015 smog standard will mean cleaner air and healthier people, particularly for those most vulnerable to ozone, like children, people with asthma and the elderly.”
Reducing the ground-level ozone in the air by 5 parts per billion would be a costly endeavor...for the fossil fuel industry. Given Pruitt’s close relationship with energy corporations, it’s unsurprising that he would seek to rollback the regulation. It’s also not the first lawsuit Pruitt has encountered since assuming power of the EPA and it’s probably not the last.