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EPA Sued for Allowing Interstate Air Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency says the air is getting cleaner while it is attempting to roll back clean air regulations. (pxhere)
The Environmental Protection Agency says the air is getting cleaner while it is attempting to roll back clean air regulations. (pxhere)
February 14, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. – Obey the law by reducing interstate air pollution – that's the message environmental groups want a federal court to deliver to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Smog-forming air pollution follows the wind, and in 2015 the EPA determined that planned actions in states such as Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania won't be enough to allow downwind states to be in compliance with clean air standards.

Under the "good neighbor" provision of the Clean Air Act, the EPA had until last year to issue new rules to fix the problem.

But in December, citing ongoing reductions in pollution, the agency's final rule said no further action is needed at this time.

According to Mark Kresowik, deputy regional campaign director for the Sierra Club, the EPA is projecting that the air will be clean enough by 2023.

"While claiming that these upwind states that are polluting places like Connecticut don't have to do anything else, the Trump administration is actively undermining and proposing to roll back many of the policies that have contributed to that dramatic reduction in pollution," he states.

The environmental law firm Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the Sierra Club and other groups to try to force the EPA to comply with the Clean Air Act.

Smog especially is harmful to those with heart disease and respiratory problems such as asthma, and to the elderly.

Earthjustice staff attorney Charles McPhedran says the principal sources of smog are industrial smokestacks and coal-fired power plants.

"The precursors of smog, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, can be emitted upwind and then combined into this toxic soup in downwind locations," he points out.

New York City and the attorneys general of Connecticut and five other states also have filed a federal lawsuit to force the EPA to comply with the law.

Some of the power plants that are the sources of air pollution have controls to reduce those emissions, but aren't using them.

Kresowik says that Connecticut has petitioned the EPA to require power plants to use those controls, but the petition was rejected.

"Just these little things that aren't very expensive would dramatically benefit residents up and down the East Coast who are suffering from bad air quality," Kresowik states.

The Earthjustice lawsuit was filed in federal District court in Washington, D.C.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT