No Immediate Local Impact Expected from Supreme Court Clean Air Ruling

Article excerpt

Even though central Oklahoma has been pushing the limit for clean air the past few years, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing even tighter standards won't threaten the region.

That is, until the ozone season this summer when a public- private education and cooperative initiative is needed to ensure the Oklahoma City area maintains its clean air attainment status.

"We do have some very stringent standards bearing down on us and we'll have to do whatever it takes to preserve the attainment status," said Zach Taylor, executive director of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.

"In the past couple of years, primarily because of meteorological conditions, we have been pushing the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) limits. The silver lining of this ruling, in my opinion, is that the U.S. Supreme Court found the EPA's implementation policy unreasonable. I'm hopeful that as the EPA digests this ruling they will find a more reasonable approach to implementation."

The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled that the EPA is not required to consider financial and health effects when making a ruling, thus allowing the stricter standards to stand.

In a lawsuit against the EPA, several companies joined to allege that the agency usurped lawmaking power in setting the standards and implementation policy.

The court rejected these industry claims. It also told the agency to develop a more reasonable interpretation of the 1970 Clean Air Act that guides the agency's implementation rules.

While the high court upheld stricter standards -- 0.08 parts of ozone per million parts of air averaged over a 12-hour period instead of 0.12 parts per million over a one-hour period -- there will be no immediate negative impact on central Oklahoma, Taylor said.

"When determining attainment status, the EPA uses the previous three years' records," he said. "If they go by 1997, 1998 and 1999, we could have a problem.

"But, I've been told that they will use the latest three-year period -- 1998, 1999 and 2000, which means we should be in pretty good shape. …

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