NEW COURT RULING: Attorneys General Force EPA to Follow the Law

March 12, 2018

Washington, D.C.— David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, released the following statement after the federal District Court for the District of Northern California ruled that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt violated the Clean Air Act by not designating ozone non-attainment areas by October 1, 2017, as required by law:

“State attorneys general have forced EPA to do its job. Administrator Pruitt has broken repeated promises to satisfy his legal obligation to identify areas that are suffering from unlawful and unhealthy levels of smog by October 1, 2017. More than five months after the deadline, the work remains undone. Now, thanks to states attorney general, a court has stepped in and is forcing EPA to meet court-ordered deadlines to complete the job. Shame on EPA. It should not take a lawsuit to force EPA to address the serious health risks that high levels of smog impose on the most vulnerable Americans.”

STATEMENTCalifornia AG Xavier Becerra
STATEMENT: Maryland AG Brian Frosh
STATEMENT: New York AG Eric Schneiderman
STATEMENT: Washington, D.C. Karl Racine

In August 2017, Attorney General Schneiderman and a coalition of sixteen attorneys general sued EPA for illegally delaying the ozone designations. The next day, EPA abruptly reversed course and announced it was withdrawing the designations delay, although it remained equivocal on whether it would meet the October 1, 2017, deadline. That deadline passed without EPA making the required non-attainment designations, in violation of the Clean Air Act. 

A few days later, a coalition led by state attorneys general notified EPA of its intention to sue if the Agency failed to correct the violation within 60 days. In November 2017, EPA issued designations for some areas of the country, but failed to make any “non-attainment” area designations, which are the designations that trigger smog reduction measures to improve air quality and to comply with the ozone standards. 

The next month, in December 2017, a coalition of fifteen state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against EPA and Administrator Pruitt for failing to meet the Clean Air Act's statutory deadline for designating areas of the country impacted by unhealthy levels of smog. That same month, a federal appeals court ordered EPA to spell out the timetable for remaining compliance decisions related to its 2015 ground-level ozone standard. A three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit instructed agency officials to report "with precision and specificity" when EPA would issue a final rule to set remaining designations for the 70 parts per billion standard.

In January 2018, EPA announced its intention to make its non-attainment designations by April 30, 2018. It subsequently amended its announcement, noting that it would not complete non-attainment designations for certain areas in Texas until after April 2018.

A new State Energy & Environmental Impact Center report, “State Attorneys General: 13 Months of Critical Actions,” shows that state attorneys general have taken at least 80 actions to advance and defend progressive clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies since January 2017. 

ABOUT THE STATE ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT CENTER: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit