States sue EPA over cross-border smog pollution

States sue EPA over cross-border smog pollution
© Greg Nash

Eight northeastern states are suing the Trump administration for denying their request to further crack down on smog pollution from nearby states.

The states, led by New York, had asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 to add eight states and part of another to an area known as the Ozone Transport Region. The designation requires those states to take actions to mitigate ozone pollution that blows to downwind states.

The Obama administration’s EPA proposed denying the petition just before Inauguration Day, and current EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE finalized the denial in November.

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New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont say that denial violates the Clean Air Act.

“Millions of New Yorkers are breathing unhealthy air as smog pollution continues to pour in from other states,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

“The federal government has a fundamental responsibility to act. Yet the Trump EPA has abandoned its responsibilities — repeatedly failing to act to control smog pollution that jeopardizes New Yorkers’ health.”

The states filed their lawsuit in the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking the judges to compel the EPA to accept their petition.

For Schneiderman, the lawsuit is the latest in more than 100 actions he has taken against the Trump administration in less than a year.

An EPA spokesman declined to comment, saying it is the agency’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.

In its November Federal Register notice denying the petition, the EPA said existing programs are better suited to address the issue of smog blowing across state lines, like the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision and the Cross State Air Pollution Rule.

“The states and the EPA have historically and effectively reduced ozone and the interstate transport of ozone pollution using these other [Clean Air Act] authorities,” the agency said.