The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Wednesday evening it would not delay implementation of an Obama-era smog regulation, and instead move forward on its original timeline.
“We believe in dialogue with, and being responsive to, our state partners,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “Today’s action reinforces our commitment to working with the states through the complex designation process.”
But that doesn’t mean the smog, or ozone as it’s often called, regulation is safe from repeal. Agency officials are still considering their options on what exactly they can do to lessen the burden on states and industry.
Pruitt notified state governors in June he would delay implementation of the ozone rule for one-year on grounds of “insufficient information” to fully implement the 2015 rule on its current timeline.
EPA has reversed course the day after 15 states and a coalition of environmentalists sued the agency for its delay. The ozone rule has been locked in litigation since its finalization in 2015.
A coalition of states and businesses sued EPA in 2015 to overturn the ozone rule, which lowered the acceptable smog levels 75 to 70 parts per billion. Pruitt sued EPA over the rule while attorney general of Oklahoma.
EPA said it “may take future action to use its delay authority and all other authority legally available to the Agency to ensure that its designations are founded on sound policy and the best available information,” according to its Wednesday release.
The agency is reviewing the ozone rule as part of a broader deregulatory effort to repeal or rewrite Obama-era rules deemed too costly. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has called the 2015 ozone rule one of the costliest ever imposed under the Clean Air Act.
Pruitt made clear in his statement, however, he wants to avoid litigation from environmental groups should he miss the statutory deadline to implement the ozone rule.
“Under previous Administrations, EPA would often fail to meet designation deadlines, and then wait to be sued by activist groups and others, agreeing in a settlement to set schedules for designation,” Pruitt said.
“We do not believe in regulation through litigation, and we take deadlines seriously. We also take the statute and the authority it gives us seriously,” Pruitt said.
On the other hand, EPA may get bailed out by Congress. House lawmakers approved legislation in July to slow the implementation of the 2015 ozone rule to give states more flexibility in complying.
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