The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 27 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could go forward with its plans to set tighter air quality restrictions for ozone and dust. The proposed regulations had been challenged by a group of organizations including the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the American Trucking Association, the National Automobile Dealers Association, the National Stone Association, the National Mining Association and the American Petroleum Institute.
ARTBA estimates that the new air quality standards could result in 300 communities failing to attain the new standards and could result in states losing $12 billion per year in federal highway funding. Under the law, states that do not meet federal air quality standards cannot use federal highway funds.
ARTBA believes the situation will ultimately jeopardize transportation improvement projects in all 50 states. An ARTBA analysis forecasts that 950,000 workers in highway construction and related industries could lose their jobs or suffer a loss of income under implementation of the tighter ozone and dust standards.
"This decision makes it even more imperative for the Congress to reform the transportation conformity provisions of the Clean Air Act," ARTBA President and Chief Executive Officer Pete Ruane said. "If these new standards are used to delay or stop needed transportation improvements, particularly those that add new capacity, the result will be even more traffic congestion and additionaland unnecessaryair pollution.
"The irony here," continued Ruane, "is that the transportation sector has made the largest contribution to the nations dramatic air quality improvement over the past 30 years."
The court ruled in part that the Clean Air Act does not permit the EPA to consider implementation costs in setting National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). In addition, the court told the EPA to find a different way to implement classification of ozone nonattainment areas: "The implementation policy is unlawful," the court stated. "It is left to the EPA to develop a reasonable interpretation of the nonattainment implementation provisions insofar as they apply to revised ozone NAAQS."