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Key Historical Court Decisions Shaping EPA’s Program Under the Clean Air Act

Key Historical Court Decisions Shaping EPA’s Program Under the Clean Air Act

Full Title: Key Historical Court Decisions Shaping EPA’s Program Under the Clean Air Act
Author(s): Linda Tsang & Alexandra M. Wyatt
Publisher(s): Congressional Research Service
Publication Date: February 1, 2017
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

This report provides a selective overview of court decisions that historically have most shaped EPA’s program under the Clean Air Act (CAA or Act). Court decisions described in the report deal with the following:

  • National ambient air quality standards (NAAQSs), holding that in setting the standards EPA is not to consider economic and technological feasibility.
  • State implementation plans for achieving NAAQSs, holding that EPA may not consider economic and technological feasibility in approving or disapproving such plans, or that the state plan is more stringent than necessary, or does not require an EPA-preferred control method.
  • Interstate air pollution, holding that EPA may consider costs in applying the CAA “good neighbor” provision, but any emissions trading program must assure some emission reduction in each upwind state. Nor does the CAA require that states be given a second opportunity to file an implementation plan after EPA has quantified the state emissions budget; EPA may promulgate its own plan for the state immediately.
  • New source performance standards (NSPSs), holding that while the Act requires NSPSs to be based on “adequately demonstrated” technology, EPA is allowed to consider technologies that will be fairly projected in the future so long as the technology is not speculative.
  • New source review in areas not subject to NAAQSs, holding that EPA may
    override a state’s determination of the “best available control technology”
    required for new stationary sources. EPA may require new source review for
    greenhouse gas emitters only if the new source will emit certain pollutants above
    threshold amounts.
  • The “routine maintenance” exemption from NSPSs and new source review, created by EPA and accepted by the courts despite statutory silence. Courts hold that whether the exemption applies depends on the increase in a plant’s expected life due to the project, and the project’s cost, nature, and magnitude. Expansive interpretation of the exemption has been judicially rejected.
  • The “bubble concept,” an EPA approach that looks at net changes in the emissions of a pollutant from a facility, holding that its permissibility depends on statutory context.
  • National standards for hazardous air pollutants, holding that EPA may determine if a facility triggers the Act’s “maximum achievable control technology” requirement for such pollutants by aggregating emission sources in a contiguous plant under common control, not just sources within the same source category. EPA is not limited in setting emission standards to hazardous air pollutants currently controlled with technology.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions, holding that the CAA generally covers them, and that EPA has to exercise that authority based on policy concerns. See, however, “new source review” above.
  • Enforcement, holding that the recipient of an administrative compliance order must be allowed to seek pre-enforcement review of the order in court.

All statements and/or propositions in discussion prompts are meant exclusively to stimulate discussion and do not represent the views of, its Partners, Topic Directors or Experts, nor of any individual or organization. Comments by and opinions of Expert participants are their own.

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