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EPA agrees to decrease smog a day after getting sued over it

EPA administer Scott Pruitt doesn’t want to go to court right now.

Just one day after attorneys general from 16 states sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its delay implementing an Obama-era rule regulating emissions that cause smog, Pruitt announced his agency would move ahead with the regulation.

“We believe in dialogue with, and being responsive to, our state partners. Today’s action reinforces our commitment to working with the states through the complex designation process,” Pruitt said in a statement, which did not mention that some of those state partners — and Washington, D.C. — had taken the EPA to federal appeals court.

“We do not believe in regulation through litigation, and we take deadlines seriously, Pruitt added. “We also take the statute and the authority it gives us seriously.”
Back in June, the EPA originally sought to wait one year before implementing the regulation, which would curb fossil-fuel burning in an effort to lower smog, also known as ground-level ozone, which is linked to lung diseases and childhood asthma, among other health ailments. While the agency wanted to give states more time and flexibility to plan for the regulations, the delay would’ve kept the rule from going into effect until at least October 2018.

Pruitt’s decision on Thursday to stay out of court over the ozone rule also comes in the wake of the EPA taking a brutal legal beating earlier this week. On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the agency couldn’t delay the implementation of an Obama-era rule on methane anymore — a signal that courts might not support Pruitt’s rushed efforts to hold back environmental regulations long enough to gut them.

“Pruitt’s lawless attempt to delay stronger ozone-pollution protections would have put thousands of lives at risk,” Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental program, said in a statement. “It’s disturbing how much pressure it took to get this common-sense step from the guy in charge of protecting the air we breathe.”