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March 1, 2021
Contact: Stephen Read

Sixteen AGs Push EPA to Reconsider Decision to Not Strengthen Ozone Air Quality Standards

EPA ‘ignored important new evidence demonstrating a need for more stringent ozone standards,’ leaving in place standards ‘insufficiently protective’ of public health and welfare, in violation of the Clean Air Act.

Washington, D.C. — A coalition of 16 state attorneys general led by New York Attorney General Letitia James today petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider its December 2020 decision to keep the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone at 70 parts per billion, rather than strengthening the standards.
In their petition, the AGs emphasize that the EPA “ignored important new evidence demonstrating a need for more stringent ozone standards to protect public health and welfare.” New medical studies show ozone exposure causes greater harm to respiratory and cardiovascular systems than previously understood, and can cause premature death, especially in elderly individuals. In support of their petition, the AGs also submitted a November 2020 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that called into question the EPA’s determination that the current standard sufficiently protects public health.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to convene a reconsideration proceeding if a party raises an objection that “is of central relevance to the outcome of the rule,” as the state AGs have argued. State AGs have also challenged the EPA’s decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“Smog may have prevented the EPA from seeing the facts clearly, but the evidence is overwhelming: Current ozone standards leave the public, and especially the elderly, vulnerable to a wide range of health ailments, including premature death,” said Bethany Davis Noll, Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “The law does not allow the EPA to ignore these realities, and state attorneys general will use all legal options to hold the agency accountable to its obligations under the Clean Air Act.”
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review the public health impacts of ozone and other air pollutants every five years and set ambient thresholds to protect public health and welfare. In October 2020, a coalition of 14 attorneys general led by AG James submitted comments in opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed decision to retain the existing ozone NAAQS, highlighting extensive problems with the EPA's review process. In the early years of the Trump administration, state AGs intervened in and ultimately defeated an industry-led push to stall implementation of the EPA’s previous ozone NAAQS update, which was finalized by the Obama administration in 2015. State AGs have been active on this and other clean air issues for many years; use the Center’s Attorney General Actions database to explore other clean air-related actions by state attorneys general since 2017.
The attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., along with the City of New York, joined AG James in filing today's petition.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State 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. For more information, visit our website