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Devon Energy, Texas Sue EPA Over Ozone Limits Set by Bush

Devon Energy Corp. and the state of Texas sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to challenge the way ozone emission limits set by President George W. Bush’s administration are being implemented.

The lawsuits, brought in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, are among more than 10 filed since July 19 opposing the agency’s designation of 46 areas across the country as failing to meet the 2008 federal maximum standard of 75 parts per billion. Devon Energy objects that Wise County, Texas, where it has natural gas operations, is on the list.

“The science behind the designation is lackluster, and relies on methods rejected by other EPA regions,” Joe Leonard, an environmental, health and safety engineer at Devon Energy, said in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on July 13.

A state or locality must develop a plan to cut its ozone pollution if it’s tagged with the designation of “non-attainment” for exceeding the 75 parts-per-billion standard.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson proposed lowering the standard to 70 parts per billion, which President Barack Obama turned down in September after a lobbying campaign by industry groups.

Other Challengers

Other challengers include Targa Resources Corp., the state of Tennessee and the Gas Processors Association.

The agency’s decision to include Wise County in its list was “arbitrary” and “clearly in error,” Tim Hartley, a spokesman for Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, said in an e-mail. He said that in addition to filing the lawsuit, the company asked the EPA to reconsider its decision.

David Bloomgren, an EPA spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Ozone, a precursor to smog, is caused by emissions from vehicle traffic, industrial activities or projects such as road construction. Gas escaping from wells or pipelines contains volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which also can cause smog. Engines running compressors, drill rigs or pumps also release nitrogen oxides, another source of ozone.

The Devon Energy case is Devon Energy Corp. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 12-01322; the Texas case is Texas v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 12-01316, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).

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