Today Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, acting on behalf of the American Lung Association, filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court opposing industry attempts to require national air quality standards to be set through cost-benefit analysis.
“The Clean Air Act requires standards to be based on health, not costs of compliance,” said Howard Fox of Earthjustice, attorney for ALA. “It is crucial that standards be an accurate reflection of what health requires, and that costs not be used as a pretext for weak standards that falsely tell the public that dirty air is clean.”
Though not relevant to health standards, costs are considered at other points in the process — by the states in determining how to meet standards, and by Congress in deciding whether to extend deadlines for meeting standards. The Environmental Protection Agency first announced this approach twenty-nine years ago — four months after the Clean Air Act of 1970 was enacted — and has not since wavered from it. The ALA brief presents extensive analysis of the history and evolution of the Act, showing that EPA’s interpretation correctly reflects Congress’s intent.
“Industry has repeatedly tried to persuade Congress to amend the Act to allow cost-benefit analysis, but Congress has refused,” said Fox. “Industry is now trying to obtain from the unelected judiciary what it has been unable to obtain from the elected members of Congress.”
The case, along with a related appeal which was briefed by Earthjustice in July on behalf of ALA, will be heard by the Court on November 7, 2000.