These National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for SO2 will improve health protections, especially for children, the elderly and individuals with asthma.
EDF Attorney Peter Zalzal praised the decision saying it “strongly affirms that EPA’s clean air protections addressing dangerous sulfur dioxide are firmly grounded in science and the law.”
EDF, along with the American Lung Association and attorneys at Earthjustice, intervened in a lawsuit to defend the standard against attacks from large industrial sources and several states. In rejecting the petitioners’ claims that this new SO2 standard is too stringent, the court noted “[t]he quotations [relied on by petitioners] only support petitioners’ arguments when taken out of their original context.”
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) expressed support of EPA’s new standards for SO2 emissions via comments released in February 2010. Though TCEQ recommended that results of “human data” should be weighted more than that of epidemiological studies and also noted concern for resources needed to follow the ruling, they stood firm with the EPA’s SO2 regulations.
Despite the TCEQ backing of EPA’s new SO2 standards, the State of Texas challenged the rule, citing concerns for how epidemiological and other health-related data was chosen and weighed, along with the necessity of computer modeling that would be needed for implementation.
The unanimous three-judge panel rejected that EPA "arbitrarily" chose epidemiological studies to warrant a tougher SO2 standard, as suggested by the petitioners. Texas, in particular, has sued the federal government 17 times and the EPA at least six times in the last two years, not including this most recent challenge of the SO2 rule.
The Court also declined to hear other arguments on the grounds that they did not represent the agency’s final decision concerning implementation of the SO2 standards.
Friday’s victory ensures that these public health measures will remain in place, providing American families with protections against harmful, short-term SO2 exposures.