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UPDATE 3-U.S. appeals court mostly upholds Obama-era ozone rules

Jan Wolfe and Valerie Volcovici

(Recasts, adds statement from California attorney general)

Aug 23 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday mostly upheld Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency regulations from 2015 that set a more stringent standard for ozone, a pollutant linked to several serious health conditions, rejecting industry groups' claims the emission limits were too hard to attain.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit largely rejected claims from energy companies, including coal company Murray Energy, the Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute that the Obama administration's decision to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standard from 75 parts per billion of ozone to 70 parts per billion was too difficult for companies to achieve.

Though the three-judge panel was unanimous in upholding the Obama-era standard, it directed the EPA to revisit secondary public welfare standards which are meant to protect animals and vegetation, and vacated a provision which held certain energy and industrial facilities in the middle of their permitting processes to a less stringent ozone standard.

This decision also ensures EPA will not be able to water down future standards below the level required to protect public health and welfare.

The Trump administration EPA last year decided not to scrap the Obama-era ozone standard and continued to defend the measure through the ongoing legal challenges.

California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a coalition of seven states that joined the EPA in defending the rule called the decision a victory.

Todays decision strikes down an attempt by corporate interests to weaken ozone standards and continue to collect massive profits at the expense of our childrens health," Becerra said in a statement. (Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Valerie Volcovici Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Chris Reese and Tom Brown)

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