American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA (2009)

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Multi-state lawsuit challenging the adequacy of EPA’s 2006 revision to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) regulating soot pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Citation: American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA, 559 F.3d 512 (D.C. Cir. 2009)

Topic: Air Pollution

Type of action: Lawsuit v. Fed. Govt.

States involved: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, District of Columbia

Summary: Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to review, and, if warranted by advances in public health science, revise the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for pollutants harmful to public health and the environment, including harmful particulate matter commonly referred to as “soot pollution.” In 2006, EPA issued revised standards. A coalition of 13 states and the District of Columbia (with an additional 3 states joining as amici) filed suit challenging the revised standards. They argued the Clean Air Act required EPA to set NAAQS at a level that protects public health with an adequate margin of safety, but that the revised standards left no margin. They also alleged that EPA arbitrarily and capriciously failed to lower the fine particulate standard even though EPA’s independent science advisors concluded there was clear and convincing evidence that the current standard was inadequate to protect against harms to public health.

Two other sets of petitioners challenged various aspects of the revised NAAQS; the cases were consolidated and heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In 2009, the court ruled that EPA had failed to adequately why, in light of the risks posed by short-term exposure to fine particulate matter, and the evidence of morbidity from long-term exposure, the 2006 revised standards were sufficient to protect the public health with an adequate margin of safety per 42 U.S.C. § 7409(b)(1). The court remanded the NAAQS to EPA for reconsideration.

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