Groups demand EPA do something about drifting smog

Pollution from out-of-state power plants, like the smoke from Texas power plants drifting over southern Oklahoma is at the heart of a federal lawsuit filed Friday against the Environmental Protection Agency.

The lawsuit wants the EPA to clamp down on pollution that has worsened smog problems in 22 states.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday, is the latest litigation filed to address the administration’s 2018 decision to take no further action to control emissions of ground-level ozone, or smog, from sources in upwind states until 2023 at the earliest.

Within the past few years, studies have cited air problems over Southern Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and blamed smoke emitted from coal-burning power plants in Texas. But several states created an effort to hold the EPA to a promise to impose stricter ozone emission standards from upwind states.

Back in 2018, the agency reversed a commitment it had made two years earlier to reduce ozone pollution, largely coming from coal-burning power plants in the Midwest and South.

In October, a federal appeals court struck down an EPA rule that gave upwind states more time to curb emissions that foul air quality in those states.

In the lawsuit filed Friday, the environmental groups echoed claims, noting that in the “eastern United States, on average 77 percent of each state’s ground-level ozone is produced by precursor emissions from upwind states.’’

The federal Clean Air Act includes a so-called Good Neighbor provision requiring states to control interstate pollution. But the lawsuit, filed by the Downwinders at Risk, Appalachian Mountain Club, Sierra Club, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, and Clean Wisconsin, noted EPA still has not filed regulations that satisfy its obligations to those downwind states.

Under the Good Neighbor policy, states must adopt plans that prohibit any source “from emitting any air pollutant that prevent downwind states from achieving the air quality standard for ground-level ozone.”

In the lawsuit, the groups want the courts to order EPA to require states contributing to downwind pollution to adopt and implement the necessary pollution reductions by May 2020 to comply with the national air quality standard.


Sources: POLITICO and New Jersey Spotlight