Hartford, CT – Attorney General William Tong today joined a new federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its failure to act – despite a court mandate — on the problem of air pollution from upwind states that is harming Connecticut air and preventing the state from achieving compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards.
Filed in U.S. District Court in New York, today’s lawsuit asks the court to declare EPA in violation of the Clean Air Act for not taking action on the upwind pollution problem affecting Connecticut and other states in the region, and to set dates for the agency to propose and adopt completed federal plans for doing so.
In addition to Connecticut and lead state New Jersey, the states of New York, Delaware and Massachusetts, along with the City of New York, have joined today’s lawsuit.
Ground-level ozone is a harmful air pollutant formed by the atmospheric reaction of certain ozone “precursors,” –most notably nitrogen oxide (NOx) — in the presence of sunlight. Breathing ozone can cause coughing, throat irritation, lung tissue damage, and can aggravate such conditions as asthma, bronchitis and heart disease.
“Connecticut has taken strong action within our borders to protect our air quality, but smog does not stop at the state line. EPA must do its job—as the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered—to control cross-state pollution. There is nothing more fundamental than the air we breathe, and we will continue to pursue this case on all legal fronts to protect public health,” said Attorney General Tong.
At issue in the case is upwind pollution migrating into Connecticut — as well as similarly-situated states in the northeast – from seven upwind states that is preventing the downwind states from attaining and/or maintaining the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The upwind states named in the suit are Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
In October 2019, the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated an existing EPA remedy to the upwind pollution problem on grounds that it was inadequate and invalid, and held that EPA was essentially in breach of its duty to hold upwind polluter states accountable.
The court ordered EPA to develop and implement a remedy under the “Good Neighbor Provision” of the Clean Air Act. Despite that mandate, EPA has failed to take any action by releasing updated federal implementation plans as required.
The matter is of particular urgency, the suit filed today asserts, not only due to public health concerns but also because this summer is the last opportunity for our states to demonstrate compliance with the ozone standards before a July 2021 statutory attainment deadline.
According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, more than 90 percent of ozone levels in southwest Connecticut and more than 80 percent of ozone levels in some remaining parts of the state result from pollution that originates in areas located out of Connecticut’s jurisdiction and control. Readings at Connecticut air monitoring stations consistently show that that air entering Connecticut already exceeds ozone standards on days when quality here fails to meet federal standards, subjecting several million Connecticut residents to unhealthy levels of air pollution.
Assistant Attorney General Jill Lacedonia and Assistant Attorney General Matt Levine, Head of the Environment Department, are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.
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