2 July 1999

The Clinton administration has taken first steps to revive its ozone and particulate matter (PM) standards remanded by court. On Monday, June 28, the Justice Department formally petitioned a full appeals court to reconsider the May 14 decision that overturned tougher air quality standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1997.

The three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in the 2-1 decision that the EPA lacked authority to impose the tougher ozone standard and had improperly issued new standards for PM. The court action came in a lawsuit filed by some of the US most powerful business interests including trucking, auto, chemical, and oil industries.

In its filing Monday, the Justice Department argued the three-judge panel had "erred in concluding that the EPA lacks authority to implement and revise more stringent ozone" standards and in holding that the agency's actions on soot was an "unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority."

The full appeals court must now consider whether to uphold the panel's decision or reverse it. If necessary, the administration may appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.

Business groups opposed the regulation in 1997, but the EPA and the White House took the side of environmentalist and health advocacy groups, which argued that more stringent air quality standards were needed to protect sensitive populations such as children and people with respiratory problems.