Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The court’s decision explains that the EPA improperly rejected Texas’ PCP Standard Permit more than three years after the agency’s statutory deadline and that the EPA provided no legal basis under the federal Clean Air Act for its disapproval of Texas’ PCP Standard Permit. The court also criticized the EPA for ignoring the federalist system established by the Clean Air Act and disregarding the State’s authority to implement air permitting programs. Under the Clean Air Act, the court pointed out, the EPA is responsible for identifying pollutants and setting national standards, while the states are empowered to create their own unique air quality programs that ensure compliance with federal standards.
Excerpts from the opinion:
With regard to implementation, the Act confines the EPA to the ministerial function of reviewing SIPs for consistency with the Act’s requirements. This division of responsibility between the states and the federal government reflects the balance of state and federal rights and responsibilities characteristic of our federal system of government.’
More than two years after the statutory deadline had passed, the EPA proposed disapproval of Texas’s submission on September 23, 2009. In proposing disapproval of Texas’s PCP Standard Permit, the EPA did not identify any provision of the CAA or its implementing regulations that Texas’s program violated.
The Act provides that the EPA shall approve [a SIP] submittal as a whole if it meets all of the applicable requirements of [the Act].’ This statutory imperative leaves the agency no discretion to do anything other than ensure that a state’s submission meets the CAA’s requirements and, if it does, approve it before the passage of its statutory deadline.
In this case, the EPA overstepped the bounds of its narrow statutory role in the SIP approval process.