DC Court of Appeals Upholds EPA’s 2012 Revisions to CAA Emissions Standards for Hexavalent Chromium


In National Association for Surface Finishing v. EPA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld EPA’s 2012 revision of its Clean Air Act (CAA) emissions standards for hexavalent chromium.  The new rule imposes more stringent emissions limitations than the former rule required, and mandates the phase-out of a category of fume suppressant containing a toxic compound.  These new emissions limits were a reversal of sorts for EPA, which in 2010 indicated that the data reviewed by it at that time did not warrant further tightening of the standard.  Various environmental organizations, opposing the new limitations, argued that the technology review required by the CAA compelled EPA to impose a new “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) floor, but the Court of Appeals, deferring to EPA and its expertise, rejected this argument.  According to the Court of Appeals, EPA “provided a transparent, reasoned explanation of its decisions, considering all relevant information in the record”  Moreover, the “statute does not mandate a particular method of cost-benefit analysis”.  The industry association’s arguments were similarly found unpersuasive.  The Court of Appeals found that, when EPA shifted its position in 2010, it was reasonable because it had before it new data relevant to the decision at hand.