WASHINGTON — The DC Court of Appeals on Friday rejected a petition by ATK Launch Systems, Box Elder and Tooele counties, as well as three Utah cities fighting EPA's designation of them being "non-attainment" areas for air quality standards.
In denying the review of the petition seeking to overturn the designation, the court ruled that the group had failed to prove the federal agency acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner.
The court said EPA's nine-factor test and holistic approach in declaring the non-attainment designations was applied consistently to arrive at the conclusion the northern Utah areas violated PM2.5 air quality standards.
The petitioners had argued that EPA used "dissimilar treatment" in air quality modeling in two East Coast counties, Hartford County, Conn., and Warren County, N.J., and came to the opposite conclusion that those areas were in attainment, and thus acted arbitrarily.
Appellate justices disagreed.
"The significant topographical and meteorological differences between the Salt Lake City area and the two East Coast counties make a direct one-to-one comparison of the data underlying the analyses inappropriate," the court said.
The counties, ATK, as well as Brigham City, Tooele and Grantsville cities had argued the EPA analysis that led to the designation of a portion of them being out of compliance with federal air quality standards was flawed.
The court, however, said the EPA rightly considered the entire set of factors that go into making such a designation, including "cumulative" contributions to the Salt Lake Valley's air pollution problem.
In its non-attainment designation, the court noted that the federal agency explained that the relatively high percentage of commuters traveling from Box Elder and Tooele counties to Salt Lake County "demonstrates a linkage between the areas, suggesting that the two counties contribute to nearby nonattainment status."
"EPA found that the portions of Box Elder and Tooele Counties designated nonattainment were in the same topographic airshed as the greater Salt Lake City area, and that there was no physical impediment to prevent their emissions from traveling into the violating region," the court noted.
The federal agency also correctly looked to future projected population growth in those areas in reaching its conclusion, the court said.
Western Resources Advocates' Joro Walker argued the case on behalf of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, which intervened on behalf of the EPA to support the designation.
"The reason Utah Physicians intervened in this case is because the PM2.5 problem in our area is very severe and it threatens people's health and quality of life," she said. "It would be a problem if the state were denied that authority relative to Box Elder and Tooele counties."