EPA Decision to Deny Delaware, Maryland Clean Air Petitions Puts Millions at Risk from Smog

September 17, 2018
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – September 17, 2018) The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to refuse help to downwind states will put the health millions of Americans at risk from avoidable smog, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

“EPA’s irresponsible decision to deny these petitions will cause unnecessary risk to the health of millions of Americans,” said EDF Senior Attorney Graham McCahan. “Maryland and Delaware have offered proven and affordable solutions to the problem of dangerous air pollution that is encroaching on them from neighboring states. We’ll keep working to help them – and other downwind states – provide cleaner, safer air for their people.”

EPA announced today that it has denied four petitions from Delaware and one from Maryland asking that the agency uphold its obligations under the Clean Air Act’s “Good Neighbor” safeguards to reduce smog-forming pollution from upwind coal power plants in other states.

Smog is linked to premature deaths, hospitalizations, asthma attacks and long-term lung damage. States that are working to reduce smog are often undermined by dirtier air that blows across their borders – about 70 percent of Maryland’s smog problem originates from air pollution in upwind states, for instance.

Maryland’s Good Neighbor petition asked EPA to require upwind coal plants to operate their already-installed pollution controls during the summer ozone season.

EPA dragged its feet and did not answer the petition for months, compelling Maryland’s Attorney General to file suit. (EDF and a coalition of health, environmental, and Maryland citizens groups also filed suit in support of Maryland.)

On June 13 the U.S. District Court ordered EPA to act on Maryland’s petition. The court was “troubled by EPA’s apparent unwillingness or inability to comply with its mandatory statutory duties within the timeline set by Congress.” (Opinion, page 14). This was the fourth time this year that a court has ordered EPA to stop delaying actions to protect public health from smog.

Today EPA announced that it was rejecting the petitions from both Maryland and Delaware.

EPA claims that it will address the problem through another Clean Air standard – the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule – but the state of Maryland has already outlined that won’t work in its recent comments to the agency.

Maryland’s decades-long efforts to reduce smog and other dangerous pollution in the state has been undermined by 36 coal-fired power plant units in five upwind states – Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. EDF prepared maps showing the pollution and impacts from these coal units – which have already-installed pollution controls but are not being fully operating them.

Power plants in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are significantly contributing to Delaware’s smog problem and making it harder for the state to meet our national smog standard and keep its people safe.

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