Agency moves ahead despite ruling that Clean Air Act is unconstitutional.
By granting petitions filed by four Northeastern states seeking to reduce ozone pollution in their geographic areas through reductions in nitrogen oxide emission (NOx) from out-of-state sources, along with other initiatives, the Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 17 began to clean the regulatory air that has grown murky as of late.
Last May a federal court had struck down the agency's move, in its call for state implementation plans (SIP) on NOx, to tighten the national ambient air quality standard for ozone from a one-hour standard to an eight-hour standard. The court said that Congress had exceeded constitutional authority by delegating too much power to the EPA.
But the issue was still in a tangle, as several states had taken advantage of the uncertainty to file their own lawsuits against out-of-state polluters.
The Section 126 Complaints
In the EPA's action of Dec. 17, the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania each won approval on their petitions under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act, which allows states to ask the EPA to set emissions limits for specific pollution sources in other states that contribute significantly to their air quality problems and hinder their ability to meet the one-hour ozone standard. (Last April petitions in the remaining New England states were denied because they no longer had areas that failed the one-hour standard.) Meanwhile, at press time, petitions were still pending for Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and the District of Columbia.