Environmentalists Say Feds Ignored Worries Over Pennsylvania Coal Plant

WASHINGTON (CN) – Two conservation groups claim in a federal lawsuit that the Environmental Protection Agency ignored their petition to block an operating permit for a Pennsylvania coal plant they say hurts people and the ecosystem.

The Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project sued Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA, in Washington, D.C., federal court on Monday, alleging he violated the Clean Air Act by not responding to their concerns.

The environmentalist groups say they petitioned the EPA last October to object to an air-pollution control operating permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for Wheelabrator Frackville Energy’s coal-fired power plant in Schuylkill County.

Under the Clean Air Act, Pruitt has the power to approve or deny state programs over pollution concerns.

“If the administrator does not object in writing to the issuance of the proposed permit on his own accord, any person may, within sixty days after the expiration of EPA’s review period, petition the administrator to take such action,” the complaint states.

The Sierra Club and EIP say their Oct. 15, 2016 petition asked Pruitt to reject Wheelabrator’s permit because it “lacks testing and monitoring conditions and terms necessary to assure compliance with the applicable particulate matter emissions limits for the plant’s coal-fired boiler.”

They also claim air pollutants released from the coal plant are harmful to human health and the ecosystem.

Pruitt had 60 days to respond to their petition but did not, they say.

“The permit upon which Sierra Club’s petition is based purports to authorize Wheelabrator to release air pollutants, thereby threatening the health of Sierra Club members and their use and enjoyment of the air, environment, wildlife, and scenery adversely impacted by such pollutants,” the lawsuit states. “EPA’s failure to respond to plaintiffs’ petition creates doubt and concern for Sierra Club members about whether the Wheelabrator plant is operating in compliance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act and whether they are being protected from exposure to the plant’s air pollutant emissions to the extent required by law.”

The Sierra Club and EIP seek an order forcing Pruitt to make a decision on their permit. They are represented by Kathryn M. Amirpashaie in Leesburg, Va.

The EPA did not respond Friday to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States, with over 800,000 members. Its stated mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the planet, practicing and promoting the responsible use of the Earth’s resources and ecosystems.

EIP advocates for effective enforcement of environmental laws, with a specific focus on the Clean Air Act and large stationary sources of air pollution, like coal-fired power plants.

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