The designations, which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently delayed for one year, play a key role under the Clean Air Act in addressing smog's serious threat to public health, triggering requirements for state-specific plans and deadlines to reduce pollution in the designated areas.
In a statement released Wednesday, Pruitt characterized the move as his agency being more willing to consider the needs of state environmental regulators.
Pruitt, who previously was Oklahoma's attorney general, has long opposed stricter environmental rules. She claimed that she disagrees with the Trump administration's deregulation agenda and argued that "our children and grandchildren" will have to pay the price in the future. "Today's action reinforces our commitment to working with the states through the complex designation process".
Other states suing EPA are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. "We do not believe in regulation through litigation, and we take deadlines seriously".
The EPA's statement said Pruitt may at some point use his "delay authority and all other authority legally available" to ensure regulations "are founded on sound policy and the best available information".
"Should EPA repeal two existing rules protecting infants from neurotoxins in order to promulgate a new rule protecting adults from a newly discovered liver toxin?" she wrote. "By illegally blocking these vital clean air protections, Administrator Pruitt is endangering the health and safety of millions - but Attorneys General have made clear: we won't hesitate to fight back to protect our residents and our states", NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. The House has already passed a resolution that would delay the ozone regulations not just by one year, but by eight years.
"The EPA's reversal - following our lawsuits - is an important win for the health and safety of those 6.7 million New Yorkers, and the over 115 million Americans directly impacted by smog pouring into their communities", Schneiderman said.
ME on Tuesday joined 14 other states in a lawsuit seeking to force the federal government to adhere to a deadline laid out in the Clean Air Act.
Smog is a powerful lung irritant formed when chemicals emitted by unburned fuel and gases from combustion - mainly vehicles - react with sunlight on hot, windless days.