April 4, 2022 by Daniel Farber

Pollution Control as Climate Policy

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Biden administration is slowly grinding away at an important regulatory task: reconsidering the air quality standards for particulates and ozone. Setting those standards is an arduous and time-consuming process, requiring consideration of reams of technical data. For instance, a preliminary staff report on fine particulates (PM2.5) is over 600 pages long. When the process is done, the result will not only be better protection of public health. It will also be a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming agents.

Quick legal background: The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set national ambient air quality standards or NAAQS (pronounced "knacks"). They are supposed to be set at a level that, "allowing an adequate margin of safety, are requisite to protect the public health." They're supposed to be revised every five years based on new science, though EPA has tended to fall beyond schedule. The Trump administration decided that the existing standards are just fine, but Biden directed EPA to reconsider.

It seems pretty clear that the current PM2.5 standard is too high. Averaged over a year, the current standard limits emissions to …

Aug. 26, 2019 by Daniel Farber

Originally published on Legal Planet.

On Friday, the D.C. Circuit decided Murray Energy v. EPA. The court upheld EPA's health-based 2015 air quality standards for ozone against challenges from industry (rules too strong) and environmental groups (rules too weak). However, it rejected a grandfather clause that prevented the new standards from applying to plants whose permit applications were in-process when the standards were issued. It also required EPA to tighten up the "secondary standards" for ozone, which are intended to prevent non-health harms such as damage to vegetation.

If you think the life of a federal circuit judge is all about dramatic constitutional arguments, you might consider one argument that the court had to wrestle with. The environmental challengers argued that "EPA impermissibly departed from CASAC's advice by setting the secondary standard level using a three-year average W126 benchmark without lowering the level to protect against …

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More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 4, 2022

Pollution Control as Climate Policy

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Clearing the Air