The Valero Benicia Refinery in Benicia, Calif., in July. (The Associated Press)

The Valero Benicia Refinery in Benicia, Calif., in July. (The Associated Press)

Fourteen states sue over smog rules enforcement

  • By Don Thompson The Associated Press
  • Tuesday, December 12, 2017 2:12pm
  • News

By Don Thompson

The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Fourteen states, including Washington, and the District of Columbia have announced they are suing the Trump administration over what they say is a failure to enforce smog standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not designated any areas of the country as having unhealthy air, missing an Oct. 1 deadline, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday. Such areas must take steps to improve their air quality.

Poor air quality particularly affects the health of children, people with asthma and those who work outside, said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led and announced the filing. The lawsuit says smog can cause or aggravate diseases including heart disease, bronchitis and emphysema.

“Lives can be saved if the EPA implements these standards,” he said in a statement.

Becerra was joined by the attorneys general in Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state. Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency also joined the suit.

The EPA said the agency’s policy is not to comment on litigation.

The suit is the latest allegation brought by Democratic officials in California and other states alleging that the Trump administration is illegally delaying environmental actions, as Republican officials including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt attempt to unwind rules set under the Obama administration.

Becerra, for instance, noted that he previously sued Trump officials for what he says is the illegal delay of a rule encouraging automakers to manufacture vehicle fleets that meet or exceed federal fuel efficiency standards.

Clean Air Act standards require that smog-producing ground-level ozone be kept below levels the federal government decides won’t affect public health. The lawsuit says the EPA missed its deadline to say which regions are not meeting the most recent standards set by the Obama administration in 2015.

The EPA determined, in setting the ozone standards, that the required reductions would produce billions of dollars’ worth of health benefits annually despite the costs of complying.

Failing to designate regions which are not complying deprives state and local regulators of crucial regulatory tools not otherwise available, according to the lawsuit. States were required under the law to recommend which areas they believe are not meeting the standards.

Nationwide, the tighter restrictions were projected to save between 316 and 660 lives each year, prevent nearly 900 hospital visits and keep children from missing 160,000 school days, bringing $4.5 billion in health benefits.

That includes up to 218 saved lives and $1.3 billion in savings in California alone from a reduction in health care costs, lost workdays and school absences, according to the lawsuit.

The EPA tried in June to extend its deadline to Oct. 1, 2018, but then withdrew the proposed extension in the face of lawsuits from states and advocacy groups.

Last month, it designated some areas as meeting standards but said it was postponing any decisions on regions that weren’t complying, including densely populated and high-risk urban areas, until “a separate future action,” the suit says. The agency didn’t say when it would act.

Efforts by states and regional air districts to reduce emissions from motor vehicles and other sources will be more difficult as the climate warms, California Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey said.

He said the EPA has had the information it needs to make the required designations for months without acting. The lawsuit asks a judge to order the EPA to act promptly.

More in News

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, center, walks on a trail in Neah Bay with Tribal Chairman Timothy J. Greene Sr., left, and others. (Sen. Murray's office)
Murray tours West End facilities

Senator secured funding for road, medical center

Olympic Medical Heart Center director Leonard Anderson examines a new echocardiograph at the Port Angeles hospital facility. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Foundation donation aids OMC’s heart center

Echocardiogram machine to help more patients receive care locally

OMC providing facts about Proposition 1

Hospital sees $2.2M in savings following consultant tips

From left, Leland Gibson, Tucker Piontek and Jeff Matthews are lowered into the water aboard Fern, a Nordic folk boat commissioned by Michigan resident Charles Jahn, who was present to see his boat in the water for the first time on Friday at Port Townsend’s Boat Haven Marina. Fern was built over three years by three separate classes of students at The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. (Elijah Sussman/Peninsula Daily News)
Boat launched in Port Townsend

From left, Leland Gibson, Tucker Piontek and Jeff Matthews are lowered into… Continue reading

Maya DeLano, executive assistant at Composite Recycling Technology Center, demonstrates the durability of recycled carbon fiber during a job fair on Friday organized by the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce at the Vern Burton Community Center. (Christopher Urquia/Peninsula Daily News)
Job fair in Port Angeles

Maya DeLano, executive assistant at Composite Recycling Technology Center, demonstrates the durability… Continue reading

Three generations of Bike the US for MS riders — from left, Michael Davies, Jordyn Davies and Richard Davies — visit the Sequim MS Support Group. (Sequim MS Support Group)
Bike the US for MS makes stop in Sequim

The Sequim Multiple Sclerosis Support Group continued its tradition of… Continue reading

Road work set next week on state Highway 20

Maintenance crews from the state Department of Transportation will… Continue reading

Recall petitions dismissed

Judge cites petitioner’s lack of standing

Clallam Transit awarded $3.6M grant

Agency plans to replace several buses in its fleet

Western hemlock could provide housing option

Mill processing trees, removing moisture content

Abbot Construction’s crew responsible for crane lifting the two-story concrete walls pack up as new crew members move in for steel reinforcement on Monday. (Elijah Sussman/Peninsula Daily News)
Jefferson Healthcare adding capacity, programs

Expanded services to be offered upon 2025 opening