EPA reverses decision to delay smog rule after lawsuits

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during an interview for Reuters at his office in Washington, U.S., July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed a decision to delay an Obama-era rule requiring states to curb smog-causing emissions, one day after 15 states sued the agency over the move.

The EPA announced the decision to go ahead with the so-called “2015 Ozone Designations” late on Wednesday, saying it showed the agency’s commitment to working with states.

“We believe in dialogue with, and being responsive to, our state partners,” EPA Chief Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

Pruitt in June had announced the EPA’s intention to delay the ozone designations - in which existing smog pollution is measured in parts of the country to determine where cuts must be made to meet tougher air quality standard - by one year to October 2018.

A group of 15 mostly Democratic states, along with the District of Columbia, filed a suit on Tuesday saying the effort was illegal.

The administration of President Donald Trump has been seeking to roll back a wide array of environmental regulations imposed by former President Barack Obama, as part of a broader agenda Trump says is aimed at sparking economic growth. But the efforts have triggered pushback by Democratics and conservation groups who are concerned about the impact of greater emissions on public health.

The EPA’s website says breathing air containing ozone “can reduce lung function and increase respiratory symptoms” like asthma.

Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Bernadette Baum