EPA Interstate Air Pollution Enforcement Challenged by Maryland & Others

Bay Journal article (2019-02-11) reported that separate coalitions of environmental groups and East Coast states have launched legal challenges against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its lack of enforcement on interstate air pollution regarding power plant emissions. EPA has struggled to address the problems caused by interstate air pollution and recently declined several petitions to take action.

Due to its location and weather patterns, Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay are particularly susceptible to air pollution generated in power plants in Midwest states. In addition to out-of-state air pollution posing public health and air quality hazards, the article noted that the Chesapeake Bay Program estimates about a third of the Bay’s nitrogen load comes from air pollution, with two-thirds of that air pollution coming from out-of-state sources.

The article stated that the environmental group lawsuit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by Earthjustice, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Downwinders at Risk, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Sierra Club.

“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to limit air pollution crossing state lines,” said Jon Mueller, the Bay Foundation’s vice president for litigation. “By ignoring the ‘good neighbor’ provision of the Clean Air Act, EPA is exacerbating climate change, harming human health and damaging water quality.”

On the same day that the environmental groups filed a separate suit, a coalition of states, including Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. New York City was also a party.

The court filings are the latest in a series of legal maneuvers by mid-Atlantic and New England states attempting to get the EPA to address interstate air pollution that they contend is affecting the health of their residents. Maryland, for instance, says that its air monitoring has found that up to 70 percent of the nitrogen oxides causing ozone pollution in the Baltimore and DC areas comes from out of state.

The article also described previous attempts by Maryland and other East Coast states to petition EPA to expand the number of states required to reduce ozone pollution that crossed state lines. The EPA denied that petition in 2017, which the participating states have challenged in a separate legal action. Maryland has a separate legal action pending over an EPA denial of a request that would have required 19 out-of-state power plants to run pollution-reducing air scrubbers during certain summer months.