A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to act within 90 days to revise standards intended to protect children from lead paint, requiring the agency to issue new rules much faster than planned.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, ruled the EPA has taken too long to update lead paint and dust-lead standards in light of new information showing the dangers of lead paint.
The court said the EPA is required to act more quickly under the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 because recent scientific studies show lead paint is more dangerous to children than previously thought when Congress developed the standards in the 1990s.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012 said there is no known safe level of lead that can enter the bloodstream.
In 2009, a group of petitioners, including the Sierra Club and United Parents Against Lead, asked the EPA to “more adequately protect children” by issuing tougher lead paint standards. The EPA granted the request but declined to provide a timetable for making a new rule.
The petitioners, in August 2016, asked the 9th Circuit Appeals Court to rule the EPA has unreasonably delayed creating a new rule.
The Trump administration had told the court it expected to take another six years to issue a new rule.
Writing for the majority on Wednesday, Judge Mary Schroeder, nominated by President Jimmy Carter, ordered the EPA to propose a new rule within 90 days and make a final rule within a year after that.
“EPA does not provide an alternative timeline, other than its vague intention to issue a proposed rule in four years and a final rule in six, a timeline we hold to be unreasonable,” Schroeder wrote.
“We must observe, however, that EPA has already taken eight years, wants to delay at least six more, and has disavowed any interest in working with petitioners to develop an appropriate timeline through mediation. We are also mindful of the severe risks to children of lead poisoning under EPA’s admittedly insufficient standards.”
Judge N.R. Smith, a nominee of President George W. Bush, dissented because he said neither the Toxic Substances Control Act nor other federal laws cited by the majority require the EPA to act.
An EPA spokesperson said Wednesday the agency is reviewing the court's decision.
“Lead exposure remains a significant health threat to children, and EPA will continue to work diligently on a number of fronts to address issues surrounding childhood lead exposure from multiple sources,” the spokesperson said.