The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear arguments about the powers of the government to protect the purity of the air from significant deterioration.
The issue centers on regulations issued in 1972 by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. The EPA neither exceeded its authority nor abused its direction, the U.S. Court of Appeals here ruled last August.
But for major power companies and the Americans petroleum Institute, the oil industry's principal trade association, contending that the ruling threatens "the struggle to obtain energy self-sufficiency," said the ruling was erroneous and asked the Supreme Court to review it.
The regulations established national primary and secondary standards for air quality and set up three classifications for areas where air quality generally is superior to the national standards.
These areas are mostly, sparsely populated. To prevent significant deterioration, primarily resulting from power-plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter the regulations empowered the states, federal land managers and the governing bodies of Indian tribes to reclassify federal lands within their jurisdictions.
The federal land managers, in addition, were empowered to adopt stricter regulations for federal lands than had a state.
The appellate court rejected industry arguments that the regulations went beyond the bounds of the law, were unworkable, interfered with the Clean Air Act's grant of authority to the states, had no rational relations to the protection of public health, took private property without just compensation, and represented an unconstitutionally vague delegation of authority to the EPA.
In a related step, the high court agreed to review a decision by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that barred a defendant in a criminal enforcement action from challenging a Clean Air Act emission standard he is charged with violating.
The review was requested by Adamo Wrecking Co., a Detroit demolition firm that was indicted for failing to comply with a specific EPA procedure for demolishing buildings containing hazardous asbestos materials.