Battle Over EPA Smog Rule Intensifies

Environmental and public health groups want a federal court to force the Environmental Protection Agency to issue tougher standards for smog-forming pollution.

The American Lung Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other groups in a court filing Tuesday, ask a federal judge to require EPA to propose new ozone standards by Dec. 1, 2014, and finish them 10 months later.

"The longer Americans must wait for the EPA to strengthen the standards, the longer they must breathe air pollution that shortens their lives, worsens lung disease, makes it harder for them to breathe, and threatens cardiovascular harm," the American Lung Association said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The filing is the latest twist in the intense, years-long legal and lobbying battle over EPA ozone regulations. It's a fight that has drawn high-level White House involvement over the past several years.

President Obama, in 2011, scuttled EPA plans to toughen George W. Bush-era standards but noted that EPA would revisit the rules in 2013.

The 2011 White House action followed heavy lobbying by industry groups, such as the National Association of Manufacturers, that say further tightening of the rules would hobble the economy.

EPA, under the Clean Air Act, must review ozone standards every five years.

The green groups' filing Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California says completion of that review is overdue.

It notes that ozone rules were last promulgated in mid-March of 2008 and that "there is no dispute that EPA has failed to complete its review."