Thursday, March 22, 2007

Additional EPA Interpretations Of "South Coast" Decision

Mar 19: As reported on March 20 [See WIMS 3/20/07], U.S. EPA proposing to move forward with final actions on requests to redesignate 18 areas in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia as meeting the national outdoor air quality standard for ground-level ozone. In doing so, the Agency made various interpretation regarding the December decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that rescinded EPA's rule that classified ozone nonattainment areas for the 8-hour standard [See WIMS 1/2/07, South Coast Air Quality v. U.S. EPA].

In its proposed approval and interpretation, the Agency said, "EPA proposes to find that the Court’s ruling does not alter any requirements relevant to these proposed redesignations that would prevent EPA from finalizing these redesignations. The EPA believes that the Court’s decision, as it currently stands or as it may be modified based upon any petition for rehearing that may be filed, imposes no impediment to moving forward with redesignation of these areas to attainment, because in either circumstance, redesignation is appropriate under the relevant redesignation provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and EPA’s longstanding policies regarding redesignation requests."

In addition on March 19, EPA's Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum issued a memo providing further guidance on the impacts of the South Coast Air Quality v. U.S. EPA decision. In the guidance memo, EPA said, "The court's mandate has not been issued and we have until March 22, 2007 to decide whether to seek rehearing on any aspect of the decision. Since the decision was announced, we have received many questions from the Regions, Federal, State, local agencies, and Tribes on its impact. The inquiries can be grouped into four primary questions and the purpose of this memo is to provide you responses to those questions as best we can at this time."

The very significant questions which EPA responds to in the Memo include: (1) Have State Implementation Plan (SIP) obligations changed as a result of the decision?; (2) Should States submit nonattainment SIPs by June of this year?; (3) Can ozone nonattainment areas with clean air be redesignated to attainment during the pendency of the court decision?; and (4) What transportation conformity, general conformity, and NSR requirements must be met at this time in 8-hour ozone areas?

Access EPA's Guidance Memo (click here). [*Air]