On Aug. 2, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) top official Scott Pruitt reversed a decision to delay Obama-era smog regulations after being sued by 15 states and the District of Columbia.
Pruitt had first announced his plan to delay the "2015 Ozone Designations" in June, reports Reuters. The decision would halt states from having to comply with new ground-level emissions standards by one year to Oct. 1, 2018.
State attorneys general from nearly one-third of the U.S. responded to the proposal by suing the EPA, with Lancaster Online reporting that prosecuting states called the delay "illegal and arbitrary." According to The Guardian, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was the main spokesman for the coalition of states.
"The EPA’s reversal following our lawsuits is an important win for the health and safety of those 6.7 million New Yorkers, and the over 115 million Americans directly impacted by smog pouring into their communities," Schneiderman stated.
In addition to New York and D.C., the states that filed lawsuits against the EPA were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Ozone designations were not the only delay announced in June by the EPA to be struck down.
On July 5, Pruitt announced a delay to a rule that would require oil and gas companies to fix methane leaks. The circuit court of appeals in D.C. later ruled against the EPA on July 3, after several environmental groups had pressed charges.
The Washington Examiner reports that some environmental groups speculate that Pruitt chose to reverse the smog-emissions delay to avoid another legal defeat.
"The EPA's hasty retreat shows that public health and environmental organizations and 16 states across the country were right: the agency had no legal basis for delaying implementation of the 2015 smog standard," said Seth Johnson, an attorney for environmental rights group Earthjustice.
Schneiderman announced the EPA's reversal on Twitter:
"Just 1 day ago, I led a coalition of 16 AGs in suing [the EPA] for failing to protect kids from smog. Tonight, the Trump [EPA] reversed course."
Pruitt, who had sued the EPA over a dozen times prior to becoming its chief, affirmed his commitment to meeting deadlines following the delay reversal.
"Under previous administrations, EPA would often fail to meet designation deadlines, and then wait to be sued by activist groups and others, agreeing in a settlement to set schedules for designation," said Pruitt. "We do not believe in regulation through litigation, and we take deadlines seriously. We also take the statute and the authority it gives us seriously."
The Guardian reports that a statement issued by the EPA suggested Pruitt may still decide to impose delays in other matters.
In a separate matter, representatives approved a House bill in July that aims to delay 2015 ozone regulations by a minimum of eight years, according to The Guardian. The Senate has yet to vote on the bill.