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Lawsuit Aims at Reducing New England Smog

Smog from power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania travels as far north as Acadia National Park, compromising air quality. (werner22brigitte/Pixabay)
Smog from power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania travels as far north as Acadia National Park, compromising air quality. (werner22brigitte/Pixabay)
February 15, 2019

BAR HARBOR, Maine – Groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to make it enforce the "Good Neighbor" provisions of the Clean Air Act, regulating interstate air pollution.

In December, the EPA announced that states don't need to comply with those requirements, saying power plants are already reducing air pollution. But the lawsuit alleges that decision puts the Northeastern states at risk.

The law firm Earthjustice filed it on behalf of the Appalachian Mountain Club and other groups, in federal District Court in Washington, DC. Georgia Murray, staff scientist for the Appalachian Mountain Club, says smog from power plants to the south travels as far north as Maine.

"Acadia National Park, this past season, saw their air quality worsen and are now exceeding the 2015 ozone standard," says Murray. "So, even as far away as Acadia, you can have this transported air affecting air quality."

The attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York and four other states, as well as New York City, have also filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA for failing to regulate interstate air pollution.

In 2015, the EPA found that planned efforts to reduce air pollution flowing into northeastern states would not be enough to meet air quality standards. That meant the agency needed to impose tougher regulations on upwind states.

Earthjustice Staff Attorney Charles McPhedran says the EPA was required to complete the air pollution cleanup by the end of 2018.

"Here we are in February 2019, it hasn't been done yet,” says McPhedran. “EPA doesn't get to simply extend this deadline – a deadline set by the Clean Air Act – and allow public health consequences to occur in the meantime."

Murray adds that allowing the deadline to pass has had severe consequences.

"That's more days when kids and families are told to limit outdoor activities, more times kids are sent to emergency rooms due to asthma attacks, and more days at home from school and missed work because air pollution affects your health,” says Murray.

Other parties have until Tuesday to file additional challenges to the EPA rule.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME