GASP Joins in Legal Actions Against Rulings of EPA

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Hotline, Spring 2003

by David Fowler, GASP Board Member

GASP has joined several other organizations in bringing legal actions intended to keep the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from putting in place a variety of air quality regulations that are too permissive, amounting to a rollback of some clean air rules in the Clean Air Act.

These actions were triggered by the EPA’s decision, announced Dec. 31, 2002, to adopt those regulations.

On Feb. 28, 2003 GASP joined nine other environmental groups in a petition to EPA Administrator Christine Whitman, requesting her to reconsider that ruling. It had been made, the petition argued in part, without taking into consideration a large quantity of recent evidence.

At about the same time, GASP also joined other environmental groups in petitioning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review Whitman’s action. The groups argued that the decision “prolongs and increases the exposure of petitioners’ members to air pollution associated with a variety of adverse health and welfare effects.”

These actions followed a suit by the attorneys general of nine northeastern states challenging the legality of the EPA’s weakening of its so-called “New Source Review” rules. These changes, announced in late November 2002, which would have taken effect as a result of the Dec. 31, 2002 decision, would allow significant increases in air pollution at new or modified industrial facilities.

This suit, brought by six New England states, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, was promptly joined by Pennsylvania after Gov. Ed Rendell took office.

All these suits and petitions, even if granted, would probably have no greater effect than to slow somewhat the Bush Administration’s reluctance to enforce existing federal air quality regulations and its efforts to adopt its weaker “Clear Skies” program. But maintaining the legality of these existing regulations may be as much as environmentalists can hope for in the current political climate, in which the conduct of war dominates all else.