CAA ‘Deadline’ Suit Says EPA Fell Behind on Ozone Control Plan Reviews

On Wednesday, two environmental advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan, for his alleged failure to timely review two states’ ozone compliance plans and determine whether they meet Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements. The filing argued that as a result of the agency’s lapse, the defendant has failed to protect people, ecosystems, and wildlife from ozone pollution.

The Northern District of California complaint, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Environmental Health, explained that the oil and natural gas development industry is a large contributor to ozone pollution, also known as smog. The filing contended that ozone is harmful to human health and is often to blame for respiratory problems, hospital visits, and fatalities. The plaintiffs noted that the pollutant is especially harmful to children, the elderly, and people with comorbidities.

According to the plaintiffs, the EPA establishes National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) limiting the amount of ozone in the outdoor air pursuant to the agency’s CAA obligations. The EPA most recently promulgated NAAQS in 2008, and also designated areas of nonattainment, where ozone levels exceed those set by the standards.

Reportedly, following a nonattainment designation, the state within which the air quality area sits must submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to rectify the non-compliance. One SIP element is the 2016 Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) Control Techniques Guidelines (CTG) for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, “which requires oil and natural gas production facilities to reduce their volatile organic compound emissions.”

According to the complainants, California and Illinois have “submitted their nonattainment SIP elements for the 2016 RACT CTG for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry.” California’s submissions reportedly cover its five non-attainment areas, and Illinois’ submission its one. 

Purportedly, the EPA has missed its Summer 2020 deadlines to review and approve or disapprove the submittals in violation of its statutory duty. The plaintiffs bring one cause of action under the CAA and seek an injunction requiring the EPA to render decisions by court-specified dates.

The environmental organizations are represented by the Center for Biological Diversity.