EPA Rule Increases Interstate Smog in New England, Lawsuit Says

Groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over their decision to rollback the “Good Neighbor” provisions of the Clean Air Act, which regulates 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, D.C. Georgia Murray, staff scientist for the Appalachian Mountain Club, says smog from power plants to the south travels as far north as New England.

“It’s across the Ohio, Pennsylvania area,”  Murray said. “But it’s all cumulative, so it’s really about where the air is coming from and what it’s passing over and contributing to, when you’re talking about what’s contributing to Massachusetts.”

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,” McPhedran said. “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,” Murray said.

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

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