This morning, the President tried to yank the rug out from under years of work by Earthjustice and our clients to clean up deadly smog in our air. In 2008, weak national standards for ozone, or smog, were adopted by the Bush administration, standards that the EPA’s own scientists said would not protect public health. Thousands of lives and tens of thousands of cases of asthma are at stake. Led by attorney David Baron, we sued on behalf of the American Lung Association, EDF, NRDC and others. Before the court ruled on our challenge, the incoming Obama administration promised to revise the standard and the litigation was put on hold.
Since early 2009, the EPA has promised to issue a stronger standard, one that would be consistent with science and law. The agency first said it would act by no later than August 2010. That deadline passed with no action, and more promises were made, most recently that the new standard would come out by late July of this year. The EPA sent a proposed standard to the White House in July, but today the President sent it back, directing the EPA to reconsider and in essence to do nothing until 2013.
Last month, after a standard hadn’t been issued, we went back to court. We have asked for an order compelling the agency to issue a new, lawful standard by a date certain. The President’s action today doesn’t take anything away from our litigation. Instead, the President action demonstrates why court action is necessary to make meaningful progress toward clean air for all.