[Thanks to Bloomberg BNA for breaking this news]:
Today a federal judge ordered the EPA to sign a proposed rule setting air pollution standards for particle soot by June 7.
This is a big victory for clean air. Every day of delay means more people get sick and die.
The EPA has been sitting on this for months. It sent a proposal to OMB for review just this week under pressure from lawsuits by state, health and environmental groups.
EPA missed a October 2011 statutory deadline to revise the particulate matter national ambient air quality standards, and Judge Robert Wilkins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the agency has not provided a reasonable explanation as to why the rulemaking process has taken so long and why the agency needs additional time.
Advocacy groups and 11 states, including New York and California, have asked the court to compel EPA to review the particulate matter standards.
Wilkins did not set a deadline by which EPA must issue a final rule. He said he first wants to hear from Gina McCarthy, EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation; a hearing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on June 11.
“The EPA has some explaining to do,” Wilkins said.
EPA has said it needs until August 2013 to finalize the rule, but the plaintiffs have asked the court to order the agency to issue the final rule in December.
The judge also said EPA must seek expedited publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register and accept public comments on the rule for nine weeks.
EPA revised the particulate matter standards most recently in 2006. The annual standard for fine particulate matter is 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air, and the daily standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The decision was controversial to say the least because EPA’s science advisers had recommended a tougher annual standard.