Eight States Sue EPA Over Upwind Air-Pollution Control

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on June 2, 2017. The inspector general at the EPA has opened an inquiry into Pruitt’s frequent taxpayer-funded travel to his home in Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Attorneys general from eight states on Tuesday asked the D.C. Circuit to intervene in their long-running dispute with Environmental Protection Agency over smog produced by nine coal-dependent Midwestern and Southern states that pours into their jurisdictions.

The request filed in the appeals court stems from the EPA’s denial of a petition the states filed under the Clean Air Act in 2013 to get the agency to add nine upwind states to a group that must work together to reduce smog pollution.

Plaintiff New York is one of 10 so-called “downwind” states that are part of an “Ozone Transport Region” created by the Clean Air Act. The other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Jurisdictions in the program must work together to try to control pollutants that contribute to the formation of smog.

In 2013, the original member states filed a petition to add nine other, coal-producing states to the program. These were Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

On Oct. 27, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied the petition. Now the attorneys general claim Pruitt’s decision shows the Trump administration has abandoned its responsibility to protect their citizens. They want the DC Circuit to review the decision and compel the EPA to take action to reign in the pollution.

“Millions of New Yorkers are breathing unhealthy air as smog pollution continues to pour in from other states,” New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “The federal government has a fundamental responsibility to act. Yet the Trump EPA has … repeatedly failing to act to control smog pollution that jeopardizes New Yorkers’ health.”

One in three New York residents intake unhealthy levels of smog, he said, and the EPA’s own studies demonstrate pollution from states upwind of New York contribute “substantially to the states harmful levels of smog.”

Because of this, many states within the region, including New York, are unable to meet federal air quality standards.

Smog causes a variety of health problems, short and long term, including common symptoms like couching and throat irritation. But prolonged exposure can lead to chronic asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and even heart disease.

An American Lung Association study this year found New York is the ninth most smog polluted city in the U.S.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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