An article on court action upholding the nation's ozone control standards should have read that the American Petroleum Institute wanted eonomic factors to be considered in setting the standard. The oil industry lobbying group did not claim the standard would be hard to meet for economic reasons.
A federal appeals court here has rejected the theory that "killer trees" pollute the air to a point that the Clean Air Act does not work, upholding the controversial Environmental Protection Agency standards for controlling ozone.
President Reagan said during his campaign that trees and plants contribute much of the pollution in the air, making attainment of EPA standards difficult if not impossible. Critics pounced on the remark as showing his ignorance of air chemistry.
But the ozone standard has been the target of continual industry complaint about EPA standard-setting procedures.
In a Sept. 3 ruling, a three-judge panel upheld those procedures and ruled essentially that whether or not trees pollute the air, EPA is not required to set cleanup goals that are technologically attainable, only goals that are sufficient to protect human health.
In an opinion by Judge Roger Robb, the court dismissed arguments made in 1980 by the city of Houston that EPA had ignored natural background levels of ozone when it set the health standard in 1979 at 0.12 parts per million.
"Attainability and technological feasibility are not relevant considerations in the promulgation of national ambient air quality standards," Robb wrote.
Varying state regulations and variances can compensate for any local problem, the decision said, adding, "Congress is aware that some regions are having difficulty in meeting the national standards." The court said Houston had failed to prove its claim that ozone levels did not fall when hydrocarbons are reduced.
The ruling also rejected challenges from the American Petroleum Institute that the 0.12 standard was too stringent, and from the Natural Resources Defense Council that the standard was too lenient.
"The proper function of the court is not to weigh the evidence anew and make technical judgments; our role is limited to determining if the administration made a rational judgment," the opinion said.
David Doniger of the NRDC called that "another Goldilocks decision: they found that this standard is ju-u-u-st right." He added that NRDC probably will not appeal, but continues to feel "there are some serious health hazards that this standard does not protect against."
API also argued that the standard had been arbitrarily set in violation of procedural rules, and that it could not be met for economic reasons.
The court firmly rejected the economic assertion, citing its ruling on the EPA standard for lead that economic and technical feasibility may not be considered in standard-setting.
Admitting that EPA procedures "were not a model of regulatory action" and had violated some rules, the court said fixing the violations would not have altered the standard chosen. EPA had considered an array of scientific evidence in setting its standards and that is all that is needed, the ruling continued.
An API spokesman said a decision will be made this week on whether to appeal the ruling.