- Chuck Leavell: Growing A Better America: Smart, Strong and Sustainable
"We're experiencing phenomenal growth in America, but as we go forward is that growth going to be rapid, rampant, and reckless or can it be smart, strong, and sustainable?"
- Michigan man translates environmental research for public via YouTube
Dozens of leading scientists advise Sinclair, he says, and have began inviting him to join their international research and data-gathering explorations. "They know that they're challenged by communication," he says, "and they know that's a skillset that just a lot of them don't have."
- Pure Michigan Focuses on Conservation, not Preservation
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, she says, the MUCC unites citizens to conserve, protect and enhance our natural resources through communication, education and advocacy. "We really want to protect peoples' rights to hunt and trap, we want to engage people," McDonough says, "and we want to help people foster a stewardship ethic."
- WMEAC and Grand Valley to Recognize Outstanding Women Environmentalists
The West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and Grand Valley State University are presenting the second annual Women & Environment Symposium on Friday, Feb. 15 at the L.V. Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids.
- Impressive Local Conservancy Helps Ensure Chippewa Riverís Future Well-Being
The CWC has developed an excellent interactive, web-based map of the Chippewa River, from Barryton to Midland. Also available in hard copy, the digital map provides, at the click of your mouse, clear and succinct information on a number of recreational venues along the river.
EPA Rides Clean Air Act Hot Streak - Wins Three Court Challenges in a Row
"The secret to keeping winning streaks going is to maximize the victories while at the same time minimizing the defeats." John Lowenstein, Baltimore Orioles television announcer
Going into this weekend's crucial series with the Chicago White Sox for supremacy in the American League's Central Division, the Detroit Tigers are riding a hot streak, winning 10 of their last 12 games. Another group riding a streak that is just as hot is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On June 26, EPA won when the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Court) upheld EPA's decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This week, EPA won twice when the same court (the DC Circuit has primary jurisdiction to challenges to agency rulemaking) upheld EPA's regulations establishing a new standard for nitrogen oxide (NO2) on July 17 and EPA's regulations for sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentrations on July 20. This is winning streak that would do any major league team proud.
In American Petroleum Institute (API) v EPA, EPA's regulations that set a new one-hour national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for NO2. NO2 is the byproduct of combustion processes common to car and truck engines and power plants. The documented health effects from exposure to NO2 include contraction of the bronchioles in asthmatics and increased respiratory illness in children.
EPA is required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to reassess NAAQS for pollutants periodically and it was during that review of NO2 that began in 2005 that EPA identified that then current NAAQS standards were not protective enough, so it developed a rule that reduced the amount allowed to be in ambient air. API challenged the rule on the grounds that EPA's rule was "arbitrary and capricious" because it was stricter than necessary to protect public health with "an adequate margin of safety," as required by the CAA. Specifically, API challenged the science behind EPA's decision, because it did not rely on "peer-reviewed" and published studies.
The Court disagreed, stating that "[p]erhaps the API should have had its brief peer-reviewed." By updating already peer-reviewed studies by adding new data and relying on epidemiological studies that had been published and peer-reviewed, EPA acted appropriately. Further the Court concluded that EPA was not required to rely solely on peer-reviewed data. Finally, the Court concluded that EPA properly discounted a study that API suggested was dispositive. According to the Court, "the Clean Air Act requires the agency to promulgate primary NAAQS to protect public health even where, as here, the risks from the pollutant could not be quantified or 'precisely identified as to nature or degree.'"
Three days later, the DC Court handed EPA another victory in National Environmental Defense Association (NEDC) v EPA. This time, several states and industry groups challenged EPA's NAAQS for SO2, arguing that the standard was lower than allowed under the CAA, much like the petitioners in the API case. As with that case, EPA relied on a variety of sources to establish the standard, including epidemiological studies. The DC Court determined that it could not sit in the place of EPA to make its own scientific determination on the evidence. Instead, EPA has discretion to set standards to take into account more vulnerable populations, even if there is no specific study that demonstrates the cause and effect. It essence, it was reasonable for EPA to presume "that people with more severe asthma would suffer more serious health consequences from short-term exposures."
The common theme in all three cases is that EPA has wide discretion to make decisions based on its data and studies within its expertise. It is a basic tenet of administrative law that courts cannot substitute their own opinions or even conduct an independent analysis of the data EPA cites in support of its decisions. This is why it is very important that if one wants to influence administrative rulemaking, the best place to do it is before the rule gets promulgated, either through meetings with the agency or in public notice and comment. By the time the rule is promulgated, a challenger has a very tough road to get a court to reverse the agency's rule.
The author, Saulius Mikalonis, is an environmental attorney with over 25 years of experience in the Bloomfield Hills offices of Plunkett Cooney. He is also the author of The Green Blawg, in which he writes about environmental law issues for the non-lawyer. In addition to practicing law, Mr. Mikalonis is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills Campus, at which he teaches a course entitled "Sustainable Development Law & Policy" and a former Board Member of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).