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Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League v. Pruitt

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 22, 2017

BLUE RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE LEAGUE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SCOTT PRUITT, Defendant. Source Category Date of Promulgation of Emission Standard Deadline for § 7412(d)(6) and § 7412(f)(2) Rulemakings Source Category Proposal Date Final Rule Date

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER United States District Judge

         The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate national emission standards for sources of hazardous air pollutants. These standards must reflect the maximum degree of reduction in emissions that the EPA determines is achievable. But because technological advancements often enable regulated entities to comply with more rigorous emission standards over time, the statute requires the EPA to “review, and revise [these standards] as necessary” every eight years. 42 U.S.C. § 7412(d). Additionally, the Act requires the EPA to consider any residual risk to public health that remains even after these technology-based emission standards have been implemented, and to promulgate additional standards to protect the public, if necessary. § 7412(f). The EPA typically performs its obligations under § 7412(d) and § 7412(f) in a single rulemaking called a Risk and Technology Review (“RTR”).

         Four environmental advocacy groups have filed suit against the EPA alleging that it has failed to abide by these statutory responsibilities with respect to 13 sources of hazardous air pollutants. The EPA admits as much. Thus, the only issue before the Court at summary judgment is how quickly it should order the EPA to comply with the Act's mandatory deadlines. Each side has submitted a proposal that it claims represents the most expeditious schedule possible. After carefully reviewing each proposal and the materials in the record, the Court will order a compliance schedule that is more relaxed than that proposed by Plaintiffs, but more expedited than that sought by the EPA.

         I. Background

         A. Statutory Framework

         Congress enacted the Clean Air Act in 1963 “to protect and enhance the quality of the Nation's resources so as to promote the public health and welfare and the productive capacity of its citizens.” 42 U.S.C. § 7401, et seq. Notwithstanding major amendments to the law in 1970 and 1977, its framework for protecting the public from hazardous air pollutants remained weak. As Congress considered further amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1989, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works acknowledged that “[t]he law has worked poorly” and that the EPA had failed to protect the public from harmful pollutants. See S. Rep. No 101-228, at 128 (1989) (“In 18 years, [the] EPA has regulated only some sources of only seven [hazardous air pollutants].”); see also H.R. Rep. 101-490(I) (noting that the seven hazardous air pollutants regulated by the EPA at the time were “only a small fraction of the many substances associated (at some level of concentration) with cancer, birth defects, neurological damage, or other serious health impacts”).

         The following year, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 passed the Senate by a vote of 89 to 11, and were signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. See Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, U.S. Congress, http://www.congress.gov/bill/101st-congress/senate-bill/1630. The Amendments were “sweeping, ” and drastically expanded the EPA's role in regulating interstate pollution. See Sierra Club v. Johnson, 444 F.Supp.2d 46, 48 (D.D.C. 2006). They created “an aggressive regime of new control requirements to address four crucially important air pollution problems: urban smog, hazardous air pollution, acid rain, and depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer.” California Communities against Toxics, et al. v. Pruitt, 2017 WL 978974, at *1 (D.D.C. Mar. 13, 2017) (“California Communities”) (citing Hon. Henry A. Waxman, An Overview of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, 21 Envtl. L. 1721, 1723 (1991)).

         The 1990 Amendments require the EPA to reduce hazardous air pollutants by regulating the sources that emit them, such as stationary turbines for fuel combustion, oil refineries, and sewage incineration facilities, to name a few. See Initial List of Categories of Sources Under Section 112(c)(1) of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, 57 Fed. Reg. 31576-01 (1992).[1]Specifically, the Amendments required the EPA to promulgate emission standards for each source category, and to revise these standards every eight years in light of improvements in pollution control technology. See 42 U.S.C. § 7412(d)(6). The Amendments also require the EPA to consider any residual risk to public health that remains after it implements these emission standards, and to implement additional standards to protect the public, if necessary. See § 7412(f)(2). The EPA's practice has been to combine its technology-based obligations under § 7412(d)(6) and its residual-risk obligations under § 7412(f)(2) in a single rulemaking called a Risk and Technology Review. Def.'s Cross-Mot. Summ. J. (“Cross-MSJ”) 6. Since Congress imposed these obligations on the EPA in 1990, stationary sources of air pollution in the United States have emitted about 1.5 million fewer tons of pollution per year. See Detailed Summary: Clean Air Act Results, Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/progress-cleaning-air-and-improving-peoples-health; see also id. (noting that since 1990, “national concentrations of air pollutants improved 85 percent for lead and 84 percent for carbon monoxide, ” and that reductions in air pollution over the past several decades have increased the average life expectancy in U.S. cities by approximately seven months).

         B. Plaintiffs' Suit

         Plaintiffs allege that the EPA has failed to meet the following statutory deadlines for conducting RTRs with respect to 13 source categories of hazardous air pollutants:

Source Category
Date of Promulgation of Emission Standard
Deadline for § 7412(d)(6) and § 7412(f)(2) Rulemakings

1. Leather Finishing Operations

Feb. 27, 2002
Feb. 27, 2010

2. Wet-Formed Fiberglass Mat Production

Apr. 11, 2002
Apr. 11, 2010

3. Rubber Tire Manufacturing

July 9, 2002
July 9, 2010

4. Surface Coating of Large Appliances

July 23, 2002
July 23, 2010

5. Friction Materials Manufacturing Facilities

Oct. 18, 2002
Oct. 18, 2010

6. Surface Coating of Metal Furniture

May 23, 2003
May 23, 2011

7. Surface Coating of Wood Building Products

May 28, 2003
May 28, 2011

8. Printing, Coating, and Dyeing of Fabrics and Other Textiles

May 29, 2003
May 29, 2011

9. Taconite Iron Ore Processing

Oct. 30, 2003
Oct. 30, 2011

10. Miscellaneous Coating Manufacturing

Dec. 11, 2003
Dec. 11, 2011

11. Lime Manufacturing Plants

Jan. 5, 2004
Jan. 5, 2012

12. Iron and Steel Foundries

Apr. 22, 2004
Apr. 22, 2012

13. Plywood and Composite Wood Products

July 30, 2004
July 30, 2012

         Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. (“MSJ”), Table B, 9-10. The parties agree that eight years have passed since the promulgation of emission standards for each of the above source categories, and that the EPA has failed to complete the rulemakings required to update the standards under § 7412(d)(6) and § 7412(f)(2). See Pls.' MSJ 1; Def.'s Statement of Facts (“SOF”) ¶¶ 1-8.

         C. Proposed Remedies

         Both parties have proposed remedial schedules, discussed below, that provide a deadline by which the RTR for each ...


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