EDF, Partners Notify EPA of Impending Lawsuit over Its Failure to Protect Millions from Cross-State Air Pollution

Legal Action Supports Maryland’s “Good Neighbor” Petition

August 4, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – August 4, 2017) Environmental Defense Fund and a broad coalition of public health, environmental and community groups notified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today of their intent to sue Administrator Scott Pruitt over his failure to take protective action in response to Maryland’s “good neighbor” petition to limit coal plant smokestack pollution in upwind states.

Maryland’s petition urges EPA to limit the pollution from upwind smokestacks that contributes to unhealthy ground-level ozone, commonly called smog, in Maryland. The smokestack pollution also imperils the health of communities and families living in the immediate vicinity of these coal plants.  

Administrator Pruitt did not respond to Maryland’s petition, although he is legally required to do so. Maryland filed its notice of intent to sue Administrator Pruitt on July 20th. Environmental Defense Fund and its partners filed their notice of intent to sue today.

The Clean Air Act’s ‘good neighbor’ protections have been in place for decades to protect Marylanders and other Americans in downwind states from the dangerous smokestack pollution that blows across their borders,” said Graham McCahan, Senior Attorney for Environmental Defense Fund. “EPA Administrator Pruitt’s failure to take protective action is needlessly putting the health and safety of families in Maryland and throughout the region at risk. He must carry out his duties under our clean air laws to address the pollution from these coal plant smokestacks.” 

Maryland petitioned EPA, under the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” safeguards, for help reducing air pollution that is blowing across its borders from neighboring states. That pollution is coming from coal-fired power units that have already installed modern pollution controls – but are not fully running them.

Thirty-six coal-fired units in five upwind states – Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia – are failing to fully operate their modern pollution controls. That contributes to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone, commonly called smog, in Maryland. About 70 percent of Maryland’s smog problem originates from emissions in upwind states.  

Today, eight public health, environmental and community organizations sent formal legal notice of their intent to sue in support of Maryland and the millions in communities that are afflicted by this dangerous pollution. That group includes the Environmental Integrity Project, the Maryland Environmental Health Network, the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and the Adirondack Council, as well as Environmental Defense Fund. 

Environmental Defense Fund has also published two interactive maps that show the pollution from each electric generating unit identified in Maryland’s original “good neighbor” petition. The maps show how much excess pollution is being emitted from these units, and illustrates the air quality challenges facing communities and ecosystems in Maryland and throughout the region. 

Smog is associated with premature deaths, hospitalizations, asthma attacks and long-term lung damage. Smog-forming pollution that blows across state lines imperils the health of millions of people who live downwind – especially children, the elderly, people with respiratory disease, and those working and active outside, who are especially vulnerable.

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