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Appeals court rejects industry challenge to stronger health standards for soot

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WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court on Friday rejected an industry challenge to stronger health standards for soot.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit says the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency substantial discretion in setting air quality standards.

The revisions followed a determination by the EPA that existing standards for fine particulate matter did not sufficiently protect public health. Fine particles can lodge deeply into lungs and cause serious health problems.

The appeals court ruled 3-0 that the industry simply had not identified any way in which the EPA acted unreasonably. The court said the EPA offered reasoned explanations for how it approached and weighed the evidence

The National Association of Manufacturers argued that the EPA's revision to the standard was unreasonable.

The EPA eliminated a provision that could result in a standard that was not sufficiently protective of sensitive individuals. It also required the installation of additional monitors near heavily trafficked roads in urban areas where more than 1 million people live.

The industrial challengers said the EPA failed to request comment on whether to revise the standards and that it afforded too much weight to studies finding statistically significant associations between particulate matter and adverse health effects.

The challengers "simply have not identified any way in which EPA jumped the rails of reasonableness in examining the science," Judge Brett Kavanaugh ruled.

The ruling is the second recent victory for the EPA.

Last month, the Supreme Court backed federally imposed limits on smokestack emissions that cross state lines and burden downwind areas with bad air from power plants they can't control.

Environmental groups praised Friday's ruling.

Nick Morales, lead counsel on the case for Earthjustice, said the court ruling will save tens of thousands of lives and more than a billion dollars in health related costs every year. Earthjustice intervened in support of the EPA.

"The national air quality standards for particulate pollution that were affirmed by the court today provide a bedrock scientific foundation to ensure healthier, longer lives for our families," said Environmental Defence Fund attorney Peter Zalzal.

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