Court Challenge Reverses EPA’s Weakening of Smog Rules

A coalition of environmental groups and individual states cheered last week when a federal appeals court overturned a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to weaken limits on smog pollution generated by large power plants and factories in urban areas across the country. Besides fouling the air and decreasing visibility, high levels of smog—consisting of a mix of pollutants, including ground-level ozone—have been shown to aggravate human respiratory and cardiovascular problems and lead to more hospitalizations.


The nonprofit Earthjustice filed the successful court challenge on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Air Task Force, Louisiana Environmental Network and South Coast Air Quality Management District. The states of Massachusetts, Delaware, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia also signed on as supporters of the challenge.

The coalition initiated the challenge following a 2004 decision by EPA to weaken pollution control requirements in areas where it had previously required stronger protections according to health standards set forth as part of the 1997 amendments to the congressionally-mandated Clean Air Act.

"This decision is a victory for clean air," says David Baron, an attorney with Earthjustice. "The air in some cities is sometimes so dirty that kids can’t safely play outside. Health experts say we need stronger, not weaker, limits on smog."