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Top Republicans and the AZ Chamber of Commerce are suing the EPA over new pollution rules


Top Republicans and the AZ Chamber of Commerce are suing the EPA over new pollution rules

Mar 25, 2024 | 5:48 pm ET
By Gloria Rebecca Gomez
Top Republicans and the AZ Chamber of Commerce are suing the EPA over new pollution rules
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Republican lawmakers are challenging a federal rule aimed at reducing smokestack and diesel emissions, arguing that its new requirements are too stringent to implement and will be financially devastating for Arizona. 

Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma joined the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a federal lawsuit filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday that challenges the agency’s decision to cut the annual air pollution standard by 25%. 

Petersen, a Republican from Gilbert, blasted the rule as “tyrannical” and claimed that it would have negative consequences for Arizona businesses. 

“This rule will create unnecessary hardships for job creators and hardworking Arizonans,” he said in an emailed statement accompanying the lawsuit. “It will detrimentally impact our power grid and create even more red tape for both small and large businesses. We have no choice but to ask the courts to provide relief from this tyrannical, arbitrary, and illegal move by the EPA.”

The new standard targets fine particle pollution, called PM 2.5, that includes soot from industrial smokestacks, emissions from diesel powered vehicles and wildfire smoke. Research cited by the EPA shows a link between increased levels of the particulate matter and worsened public health outcomes. Currently, the national standard for the pollution is at 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air, but the new threshold would bump that down to 9 micrograms. 

The EPA would enforce the new threshold by testing the air quality in counties across the country and identifying areas that need improvement. States would be given 18 months to come up with a plan to address issues, but failure to meet the new air quality standards by 2032 could result in penalties. 

Three Arizona counties have failed to meet the new air quality standard in the past and are likely to face issues doing so in the future, according to a list released by the EPA that compiles air quality data from 2020 through 2022. In that time period, Maricopa County saw an annual average of 10.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air, Pinal County saw 12.4 and Santa Cruz County logged 10.2 micrograms. 

In Phoenix, which is situated in the state’s most populous county and was ranked 7th in the nation for worst year-round particle pollution, officials worry that lowering the air pollution threshold could lead to delayed construction projects.

GOP leaders warned that the costs resulting from tightening the pollution standard would be passed onto consumers, as small businesses would be forced to purchase new equipment, and manufacturing facilities seeking to settle in the state would instead be pushed away. Instead, they argued, the court should declare that the EPA’s new rule is an overreach and should strike it down.

“The final rule exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and otherwise is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law,” attorneys Nate Curtisi and Beau Roysden wrote in the lawsuit. “Petitioners thus ask that this Court declare unlawful and vacate the agency’s final action.” 

Wildfires, Petersen pointed out, are among the top contributors of air pollution, and the federal agency should focus on mitigating that danger instead of enacting harsh new rules that would be detrimental for Arizona’s economy. As climate change worsens the severity of wildfire season in the Southwest, studies have found that they have jumped from accounting for 10% of particulate matter pollution a decade ago, to almost half in recent years. The EPA estimates that wildfires make up as much as 44% of the country’s PM 2.5 pollution

In its rulemaking, the federal agency acknowledged that outsized impact, advised states to minimize the risk of wildfires by carrying out prescribed burns and committed to working on solutions to address the issue. The new air pollution standard also includes exceptions for “exceptional events” such as wildfires or even fireworks, which aren’t added to the county’s average pollution count. 

Opposition from Arizona Republicans isn’t the only pushback the new EPA standards have weathered. Earlier this month, two dozen Republican-led states launched a lawsuit against the rule, arguing that it would negatively affect manufacturers in their states and block infrastructure development. The EPA’s efforts to implement the Biden administration’s climate agenda has faced numerous challenges from GOP politicians who have ramped up criticism in the 2024 election cycle. 

In a press release accompanying the announcement of the Arizona lawsuit, Petersen slammed Biden for harming Arizona businesses and said the new EPA rule is the wrong move for the state. 

“The Biden administration should be rewarding American businesses for being the most environmentally friendly in the world. Instead, they are doubling down on their left-wing agenda. This rule is bad for Arizona, its citizens and our small businesses,” he said.