A coalition of 11 states filed a lawsuit to compel the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promptly to revise national air quality standards for air pollution involving soot. The EPA had failed to meet an October 2011 deadline for revising the existing standards.
Led by the State of New York, the coalition also includes California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, asks the Court to order the EPA to adopt new air pollution standards promptly and by a date certain.
The federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA every five years to review and, if warranted by advances in public health science, revise the national air quality standards for common air pollutants, including soot. EPA last revised the standards in 2006. However, New York and 15 other states challenged those standards as lax, and having been adopted against the advice of EPA’s own air pollution experts and the agency’s independent scientific advisors.
In 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with the coalition of states, and ruled that the EPA had not justified its decision to adopt those lax standards. The Court returned the standards back to the agency for reconsideration in light of the Court’s concerns that the standards failed to adequately protect public health.
In response to the court’s remand, the EPA stated that it would revise the soot standards as part of its next five-year review under the statute. However, that statutory deadline—17 October 2011—passed without the EPA proposing revised soot standards.
On 16 November 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman and the states joining in the current lawsuit sent a 60-day notice to the EPA, stating their intention to sue over the agency’s failure to timely revise the soot air pollution standards. The EPA has not taken action in response to the coalition's notice, leading Schneiderman and his coalition to take the latest legal action. New York and other coalition states also have a petition pending before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals asking that court to order the EPA promptly to revise the soot standards.