Energy & Environment

Maryland sues EPA over upwind air pollution

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) sued the Trump administration Wednesday to try to force it to take action against out-of-state power plants for their air pollution.

Frosh contends in his lawsuit that the Clean Air Act obligates Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt to require plants in five states to use air pollution controls.

But the EPA hasn't formally responded to Maryland's November 2016 petition on the matter, nor its July threat to sue the EPA for missing the deadline to respond.

"Emissions from power plants in surrounding states pollute Maryland's air and violate the law," Frosh said in a statement.

"My office has filed suit because the EPA and Administrator Pruitt have failed to stop these violations, ignoring our request to require those power plants to comply with the Clean Air Act," he said. "This federal law is supposed to protect everyone against the harm of breathing polluted air, so the federal government must ensure that power plants everywhere be held accountable."

Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan directed Frosh to file the case. It also has the support of the state's secretary of the environment, Ben Grumbles, who worked in the EPA under former Republican President George W. Bush.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, cites research and EPA data to argue that 36 power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are violating the "good neighbor" provision of the Clean Air Act by not using pollution control technology that is already installed.

Those pollutants blow into Maryland and reduce air quality in cities like Baltimore, despite the state's own efforts to improve the air.

Under the Obama administration, the EPA and Justice Department settled this type of lawsuit by promising to make a formal decision on the petition by a certain date.

But Pruitt has vocally criticized such arrangements as "sue and settle" and promised to be more vigilant about settlements that hold the agency to a deadline.

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