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The EPA backed off on delaying air quality rules after a lawsuit from MN and 14 other states

The decision came after a lawsuit from MN and 14 other states.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will no longer delay smog rules set to go into effect this year, a decision that came right after 15 states sued the EPA over the hold up.

The Obama administration in 2015 laid out new standards for the levels of ozone in the air, The Hill explains, reducing the maximum amount from 75 parts per billion down to 70 parts per billion.

Ozone gas comes from things such as vehicle exhaust and other emissions, and at high levels it can hurt humans and plants, NASA says.

The goal of that 2015 ozone EPA rule was to lower the amount of ozone (aka smog) people are around, since it can severely impact their health (as the EPA acknowledges here).

The EPA, in explaining its 2015 decision, laid out specific impacts:

Large business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and American Petroleum Institute, as well as Republicans with ties to the coal industry, were strongly against the tighter restrictions, the New York Times reported. Though the new standards were less strict than some people had expected.

The 2017 EPA delayed it

By Oct. 1 of 2017, the EPA was supposed to put out a list of areas that weren't meeting the new standards. Those that weren't hitting the target could then be penalized.

But the new EPA, headed by President Donald Trump appointee Scott Pruitt, said in June it was delaying the release of that list and enforcement until Oct. 1 of 2018.

The agency said it wanted to give states more time and flexibility at adapt to the new rules, and explained there were "a host of complex issues" that made compliance difficult.

15 states sued

This past week, 15 states – including Minnesota – plus D.C. sued Pruitt. A news release from New Mexico's attorney general said the states were suing because of the illegal stalling of the new standards, arguing it violated the Clean Air Act and was unnecessary.

A day later, the EPA issued this news release

It explains the agency is reversing its decision to delay the new ozone standards, and will move ahead with them based on the Oct. 1, 2017, deadline.

Pruitt in the release never mentions the states' lawsuit specifically. But he does say in the past, the EPA would just let deadlines pass without doing anything, and wait to get sued by activist groups.

“We do not believe in regulation through litigation, and we take deadlines seriously," Pruitt said.

The release also notes the agency will work with states on the complex issues that remain, including whether or not the new standards take into account "natural 'background' ozone levels in some parts of the country," for example.

The release also leaves the door open for a delay in the future.

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