New York, Connecticut sue EPA for failing to act on smog pollution from upwind states
- New York and Connecticut have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the federal government has been "ignoring [a] Clean Air Act requirement to curb smog pollution from upwind states," according to a statement issued yesterday.
- In August 2015, the EPA concluded that 24 states had failed to produce adequate pollution reduction plans, including five states upwind from New York and four states upwind from Connecticut, affecting their ability to meet clean air requirements. That finding triggered a two-year deadline to act, which the lawsuit claims has now passed.
- In December, New York led eight Northeastern states in suing the EPA for denying a petition they submitted in 2013 that would have added eight Midwestern states and part of another to the EPA's Ozone Transport Region, which would require them to take more action to reduce cross-state pollution that causes ground-level ozone.
At least a third of New Yorkers breathe air with unhealthy levels of smog pollution, according to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. Poor air quality, caused by out-of-state power generation, is a major health issue, officials say.
"Since the Trump EPA refuses to follow the law, we’re suing to protect the health of New Yorkers," Schneiderman said in a statement.
New York has some of the strictest air quality regulations in the country, with smog-causing pollutants well-regulated. But despite the state's efforts, the New York City metropolitan area has struggled for years to meet the federal health standard for smog. According to the American Lung Association, it's the ninth most smog-polluted area in the nation.
By the same measure, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen noted that his state has strong regulations in place to ensure clean air. “But as a downwind state, Connecticut suffers from poor air quality as pollutants from other states enter our atmosphere. The EPA has a responsibility to regulate these out-of-state pollutants, like ozone, yet the EPA has failed to do so," he said in the same statement.
The “Good Neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to adopt plans to reduce interstate smog pollution when the actions of upwind states are not sufficient to ensure that federal smog health standards can be met and sustained in downwind states.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that EPA has failed to adopt such plans in Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. All of those states are upwind from New York, while all except Illinois are upwind from Connecticut.
Last year, a federal court denied an EPA request for an additional 20-month delay in issuing a Federal Implementation Plan for Kentucky. The agency was directed to act by June 30, 2018.
New York has filed several lawsuits to address upwind emissions, including last year leading a coalition of 15 states in suing EPA over a failure to designate areas of the country not meeting federal health standards for smog.
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