On February 16 and 17, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued opinions that rejected efforts by environmental groups to compel the EPA to tighten the fine particulate matter standards in its National Air Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) rule, and to review the EPA’s withdrawal of its proposed national standard for ground-level ozone.

Environmental groups had petitioned the Court for a writ of mandamus to compel the EPA to tighten its fine particulate matter standards under NAAQS.  The petition arose after the Court, in a 2009 decision, held that EPA’s standards were inadequate to protect public health and directed the EPA to upgrade its standards.  The Court rejected the petition in its Feb. 16 opinion stating, “we anticipate the agency will work diligently to meet the agency’s goal, rendering the extraordinary remedy of mandamus unwarranted.”  EPA expects to update its NAAQS by 2013.  The standards were last updated in 2006.

In its February 17 opinion, the Court also rejected a challenge by environmental groups that the EPA acted illegally and arbitrarily in withdrawing its proposed national standard for ground-level ozone.  The Court held that it “lacks jurisdiction over the agency’s non-final decision.”  EPA expects to include a national standard for ground-level ozone in its NAAQS by 2013.

EPA withdrew the proposed standard after President Obama directed Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, to withdraw the proposed standard.