March 12 (UPI) -- A federal judge ruled Monday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency broke the law when it missed a deadline to announce which areas of the country are not in compliance with ozone standards set by the Obama administration in 2015.
When EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt missed the Oct. 1 deadline last year, it triggered lawsuits by the American Lung Association and several non-profits, as well as 15 states that said the agency must release information about which areas of the country have smog levels that exceed the federal Clean Air Act limits.
Judge Haywood Stirling Gilliam Jr. of the U.S. District Court of Northern California said Pruitt has until April 30 to release the findings.
"There is no dispute as to liability: Defendants admit that the administrator violated his non-discretionary duty under the Clean Air Act to promulgate by October 1, 2017, initial area air quality designations," Gilliam wrote in the ruling.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised Gilliam's ruling.
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admitted in this case that it failed to do its job and meet its deadline under the Clean Air Act," Becerra said. "Today, as a result of our lawsuit, the court ordered the EPA to comply by April 30. The stakes are high. The smog-reducing requirements at issue will save hundreds of lives and prevent 230,000 asthma attacks among children. That's worth fighting for. We will closely monitor the EPA to make sure it complies with the court's order. We stand ready to do what's necessary to ensure that the EPA does not shirk its legal responsibilities."
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in a statement that the agency will obey the ruling.
"We look forward to working with co-regulators to continue the designations process for the 2015 standards for ground-level ozone; we are evaluating the information provided by governors in February 2018 as part of that process," Bowman said.