Conn. and NY Sue Federal EPA over Failure to Control Ozone Pollution from Upwind States
The states of Connecticut and New York have filed a federal lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its administrator, Scott Pruitt, over the agency's failure to adequately control ozone pollution from other states that negatively impacts air quality in the two downwind states, Attorney General George Jepsen said today.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the states allege that EPA failed to perform its mandatory duty to develop federal implementation plans that fully address requirements for upwind states under the Good Neighbor Provision of the federal Clean Air Act for the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
The Clean Air Act requires that states be "good neighbors" by refraining from emitting air pollution in amounts that cause other states to fail to meet air quality standards. EPA determined in 2015 that Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia had failed to submit adequate plans to meet this requirement with respect to ozone. Therefore, EPA was required by August 12, 2017, to issue federal plans to bring these states into full compliance with the Clean Air Act, but by its own admission, EPA has failed to do so.
EPA's failure to act places an unfair burden on Connecticut and New York, which are unable to meet their own ozone attainment requirements due to pollution sources outside of their control. Residents of these states are harmed through exposure to higher pollutant levels from ozone that travels into Connecticut and New York from other states.
"Connecticut has robust regulations in place to protect clean air," said Attorney General Jepsen, "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. Today, we are partnering with New York in litigation seeking to compel EPA to do its job and protect Connecticut's air quality from out-of-state ozone sources."
"Once again the Trump administration has failed to stand up for Connecticut residents," said Governor Dannel P. Malloy. "While we have critical protections to maintain air quality in Connecticut, pollution from other states without similar standards is hurting our air quality and putting our residents at risk. It is the EPA's responsibility to enforce the Good Neighbor Provision of the Clean Air Act, and they have failed. I applaud Attorney General Jepsen for holding the administration accountable."
"Connecticut has some of the strictest air pollution regulations of any state in the nation, unfortunately the air our residents breathe is some of the worst in the Northeast due to pollution blown in from upwind states," state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee said. "It is incumbent upon the EPA to protect the health and welfare of all residents in a timely manner by recognizing that air pollution does not stop at state borders and holding those upwind states accountable for the pollution they send to Connecticut. I applaud this action by Attorney General Jepsen to protect Connecticut’s air quality from the sources outside of our control."
Ozone, commonly referred to at ground level as smog, is a colorless, odorless gas that forms when other atmospheric pollutants – like nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds – react in the presence of sunlight. Ozone contributes to negative health effects when individuals are exposed to elevated levels, including aggravation of conditions like asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and emphysema. It can also cause coughing, throat irritation and lung tissue damage, and children, the elderly and people with lung diseases are particularly at risk from elevated ozone levels.
Assistant Attorneys General Jill Lacedonia and Matthew Levine, head of the Environment Department, are assisting the Attorney General with this matter.
Jaclyn M. Severance