EDF Applauds Maryland Announcement That It Will Sue Over Cross-State Smokestack Pollution

Maryland Files Notice of Intent to Sue EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for Failure to Act

July 20, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – July 20, 2017) The state of Maryland announced today that it will sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over dangerous air pollution that is blowing across its borders and putting the health of millions of Marylanders at risk.

For decades, the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” protections have been in place  to protect states like Maryland from upwind air pollution originating from out of state. Today, the head of Maryland’s Department of the Environment sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, notifying him of Maryland’s intent to take legal action for Pruitt’s failure to address cross-state smokestack pollution. Thirty-six coal-fired units in five upwind states are failing to fully operate their modern pollution controls, and that is contributing to unhealthy smog pollution in Maryland and imperiling the health of all who live downwind. 

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is imperiling lives by failing to grant Maryland’s request to clean up dangerous cross state smokestack pollution,” said Vickie Patton, General Counsel for Environmental Defense Fund. “Administrator Pruitt is derelict in his duty to protect Marylanders, and all Americans, from smog-forming smokestack pollution. We stand with Maryland in opposing Scott Pruitt’s lawlessness and we plan to take action to ensure he carries out his bedrock responsibilities under our nation’s clean air laws.”

Maryland has petitioned the EPA under the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” safeguards for help reducing air pollution that is blowing across its borders from neighboring states – from power plants that have modern pollution controls, but are not running them. 

Last year, Maryland submitted a petition under section 126 of the Clean Air Act – a section that is a central part of the Act’s “Good Neighbor” provisions. The petition asked EPA to find that pollution from specified power plant units in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia is violating those Good Neighbor protections because their smokestack pollution is contributing to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone (commonly known as smog) in Maryland.

About 70 percent of Maryland’s ground-level ozone problem originates from emissions in upwind states. That pollution puts millions of people at risk, especially children and those with heart and lung diseases. 

Every one of the power plant units identified in the petition has modern pollution controls installed that the owners are not fully operating. The petition asks EPA to require those power plant units to take the common sense step of running their already-installed pollution controls every day during smog season, which extends from May 1 through September 30.

EPA has not responded to Maryland’s petition, although it is legally required to do so. So today, Maryland sent the letter providing formal legal notice of its intent to sue EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. 

You can read Maryland’s full petition here – it includes a list of the power plants that are not fully running their already-installed pollution controls. Several of the listed power plants are also the subject of two separate Good Neighbor petitions from Delaware.

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