EPA Inaction Sends Both Left & Right to Court

The Gallatin Fossil Plant operates pursuant to a state permit by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

WASHINGTON (CN) – Missing statutory deadlines drew federal complaints Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency both from conservationists and a coal-funded right-wing think tank.

The complaint by the Sierra Club takes issue with a state permit that allows the Gallatin Fossil Plant to operate in Tennessee.

With four large coal-fired boilers at its plant in Sumner County, Tennessee, “Gallatin is a major stationary source of air pollution,” according to the Sierra Club’s complaint.

Though the EPA can file an objection to such a permit if it identifies noncompliance with the Clean Air Act, the Sierra Club says regulators have ignored its Aug. 8, 2016, petition to make such objections.

In its timely filed petition, the group asked the EPA to object to Gallatin’s permit “on the basis that it: includes impermissibly lax compliance requirements for opacity, particulate matter, and fugitive dust emissions; fails to incorporate reporting requirements to ensure compliance with a governing 2011 Consent Decree; includes startup/shutdown provisions that are inconsistent with the Clean Air Act; and imposes an unreasonably permissive emissions limit for sulfur dioxide.”

The 60-day deadline for the EPA to answer this request has long since lapsed, so the Sierra Club wants a federal judge to intervene.

“EPA’s failure to respond to Sierra Club’s petition creates doubt and concern for Sierra Club members about whether the Gallatin Plant is operating in compliance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act and whether they are being protected from exposure to air pollutants to the extent required by law,” the Sierra Club’s complaint states.

The group is represented by in-house counsel and by Kathryn Amirpashaie, of Leesburg, Virginia. Amirpashaie has not responded to a request for comment on the suit.

In the same court Monday, the EPA was hit with a federal complaint by a group that used to be known as the American Tradition Institute and the Western Tradition Institute before changing its name in 2013 to the Energy and Environment Legal Institute.

One 2010 federal tax form shows that the group received money from oil tycoon Doug Lair and from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a group that has taken millions from Exxon Mobil and conservative donors like the Koch brothers and Art Pope.

Amid reports of infighting at the EPA between career scientists and officials who have come to the agency on the coattails of President Donald Trump, the institute says it is still waiting on a response to its Feb. 23, 2017 request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The request “sought a specific and tailored population of email correspondence and attachments involving three named agency employees, which correspondence was with or which referenced certain outside actors, and also used one of three other keywords, over a specified period of time,” the complaint states.

Though a response to the request was due on or before March 23, the institute says it is still awaiting even acknowledgement of the request’s receipt more than six weeks later.

The institute is joined in the challenge by the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic. Their attorney, Chaim Mandelbaum in Washington, has not responded to a request for comment.

A representative for the EPA refused to comment on either suit.

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