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Arizona leaders tell appeals court: EPA pollution standards have gone too far

By Camryn Sanchez
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2024 - 7:05am
Updated: Wednesday, March 27, 2024 - 12:59pm

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Calling the rules unnecessary and costly, Arizona business leaders and top Republican lawmakers are asking a federal appeals court to block a new air quality rule being enacted by the EPA.

In new legal filings, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry contends that the regulation to tighten up standards for fine particulates exceeds the agency's authority. The lawsuit, also filed by Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma, claims the rule is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.''

Challengers ask the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia — the court that has prime jurisdiction in cases against agency — to declare the EPA action unlawful.

The lawsuit is not unique, with half of the states having filed similar claims. But Danny Seiden, president of the state chamber, told Capitol Media Services there are some Arizona-specific issues with the regulations.

He said some of the pollutants that EPA seeks to curb are due to things beyond the controls of the Arizona businesses that would be affected by what he says would be rules that would be expensive to implement. Seiden said that includes emissions from other countries that are blown here. All that, he said, is why nationwide rules make no sense.

“What’s crazy is that what they’re doing doesn’t even solve the problem. We are already the leader in the world in environmentally responsible industry,” said Petersen (R-Gilbert). He claimed that Arizona’s air is cleaner than most countries in Europe.

“Only 16% of the pollution comes from industry, the rest of it is all natural sources or it’s wind, blowing dust, or it’s a wildfire,” Petersen said.

The EPA does not dispute there are other sources, saying that the pollutants at issue can be emitted directly from a source like construction sites, unpaved road, fields, smokestack or fires. The agency also says that the particles can come from "complex reactions of chemicals'' such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides which are pollutants that come from power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles.

A statement from Petersen and Toma went on to say that the the rule specifically "creates unattainable environmental goals for Maricopa, Pinal and Santa Cruz counties as it imposes incredibly stringent regulations of fine particles within the air.''

The EPA concluded that the three counties do not currently meet the new standard, a finding that could block permits for new manufacturing facilities. Toma and Petersen also say another eight counties also may not be able to comply, "threatening the state's economic growth and prosperity.''

At issue are standards for PM 2.5, fine, inhalable particles that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller. Health officials say they are so small they can reach deep into the lungs, causing both short-term and long-term effects.

Current rules allow up to 12 micrograms of PM 2.5 particles per cubic meter of air to 9 micrograms.

In approving the final rules last month, EPA says it would prevent 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays, yielding up to $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032.

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