WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court on Friday turned aside a challenge by environmental groups to an air pollution standard for cement plants.
In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court said the emissions-related provisions of the Environmental Protection Agency standard are permissible.
The Natural Resources Defence Council and other environmental groups had argued that the standard weakened an earlier EPA rule for cement plants that the industry had successfully challenged. The appeals court found the earlier rule from 2010 to be arbitrary and capricious and returned it to the EPA for redrafting, resulting in the latest decision.
The environmental groups and EPA disagree over whether the Clean Air Act prohibits weakening an earlier EPA rule.
“We ultimately need not decide whether EPA’s reading is the better or only reading of this statutory provision, but simply whether it is a permissible reading. EPA administers the Clean Air Act, and we must defer to its reasonable interpretation,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote.
A senior attorney at NRDC, John Walke, said the outcome of the case is disappointing because the Obama administration is allowing a near doubling of toxic soot pollution from cement plants.
The environmental groups could seek review by the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit or could seek Supreme Court review.
In the latest decision, the appeals court sided with environmental groups on one issue. It ruled that cement plants being sued over pollution cannot claim as a defence that an unavoidable malfunction resulted in impermissible levels of emissions.