EDF, Sierra Club Sue Environmental Protection Agency to Protect People from Gas-Burning Power Plant Pollution

December 8, 2022
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – December 8, 2022) Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency challenging the agency’s failure to satisfy its duty under our nation’s clean air laws to protect people and communities from the dangerous pollution emitted by new gas-burning power plants. 

Gas-burning power plants emit multiple pollutants, including climate-destabilizing carbon dioxide and — notably for this case — nitrogen oxides (NOx), contaminants that contribute to deadly particle pollution and smog. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA must review and revise new source performance standards, our national protections against air pollution from industrial stationary sources like power plants, every eight years. Despite its legal obligation, the agency has not updated its NOx standards for new gas plants in over 16 years. The current NOx limits are therefore badly out of date and come nowhere near reflecting the best emission limits achievable through the use of readily available technology. Meanwhile, new gas-burning power plants that do not reflect the best achievable emissions limits are being built across the nation. Until EPA fulfills its legal duty to review and revise those standards, people and communities will continue to suffer from dirtier air.

“Pollution from new gas plants adversely impacts community health and is fueling the climate crisis,” said EDF Lead Counsel Michael Panfil. “EPA’s outdated emission standards do not provide adequate safeguards against the extensive pollution emitted by new gas-burning power plants. We need EPA to take action now to protect public health for all people.”

“Gas-burning power plants present a serious threat to our families and communities, not only driving climate change but also emitting pollution that causes heart and lung ailments, keeps our children out of school, triggers asthma attacks, and increases our risk of harmful diseases,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Andres Restrepo. “For years, EPA has failed to revise its NOx standards for new gas plants, creating a loophole that allows plant developers to avoid installing the best widely available emission control technology. The agency must waste no time in rectifying this error by setting new and appropriately protective safeguards. Nothing less than our lives are at stake.”

The suit was filed last night in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. EPA now has 60 days to respond.

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