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EPA Must Justify Failure to Strengthen SO2 Standards in Light of Critic's Evidence
Description Various health and environmental groups provided evidence that millions of asthmatics may suffer adverse health effects under the current EPA standards for sulfur dioxide. EPA refusal to strengthen the SO2 standards was not sufficiently documented to rebut the claims made by petitioners, so the appeals court remanded the issue to EPA.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words National Ambient Air Quality Standards
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Clean Air Act mandates the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards to regulate health-threatening air pollutants. These standards are to be revisited by the EPA every five years. Sulfur dioxide, SO2, is known to cause specific health problems for asthmatics. EPA Administrator Browner rejected requests from the American Lung Association and other organizations to tighten the SO2 restrictions. Lung Association appealed.
Court of Appeals Decision Remanded to EPA. The Administrator's decision not to issue tougher SO2 standards was not based on sufficient rationale in the public record. Petitioners presented evidence of health effects on a significant number of citizens. These claims must be specifically addressed. The Administrator has substantial discretion and may establish an "adequate margin of safety" above what scientific certainty prescribes, but this does not mean, on the flip side, that the Administrator "may decline to establish a margin of safety in the face of documented adverse health effects."
Citation American Lung Assn. v. EPA, 134 F.3d 388 (D.C. Cir., 1998)

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