EPA says it doesn’t need new ‘good neighbor’ air pollution rule

EPA says it doesn’t need new ‘good neighbor’ air pollution rule
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday said that it doesn’t need to write a new regulation to comply with a legal requirement to address air pollution that blows across state lines.

The Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision mandates that the EPA work to ensure that pollution from certain states doesn’t make air quality worse in downwind states.

In Friday’s released finding, the EPA said that as it relates to the 2008 regulation limiting smog-forming ozone pollution, the agency has already taken the actions necessary to comply with the “good neighbor” standard.

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Specifically, a 2016 update to the Cross State Air Pollution Rule went far enough to regulate states’ ozone pollution and will meet the legal standard once it is implemented, the EPA said.

In a statement accompanying the proposal, the EPA criticized the 2016 rule, saying it was a top-down approach that unfairly imposed federal mandates on states.

“Based on progress in reducing concentrations and precursor emissions of ozone, this proposed action will close out the CSAPR approach to ‘good neighbor’ obligations, which has involved the imposition of federal implementation plans and lingering uncertainty for our state partners,” said Bill Wehrum, head of the EPA’s air office.

“Starting this year, we expect states to step up to address these interstate obligations and EPA has identified technical tools and flexibilities to facilitate these plans.”

Friday’s proposal would also make “minor” changes to the 2016 rule to certify that it is meant to comply with the “good neighbor” mandate.

The attorneys general of New York and Connecticut sued the EPA for missing an August 2017 deadline to comply with the “good neighbor” provision.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in New York ruled that the EPA must address the issue, though he did not specify a remedy.

“Given the prior violations of the statutory deadline by the EPA, it is a reasonable exercise of the court’s equitable powers to require the EPA to do the minimal tasks it has agreed it can do to remedy its past violation of the statute,” he said.

Thanks to that ruling, the EPA must finalize the action it took Friday by Dec. 8. At that point, states or other opponents could sue again if they wish.