EPA Denies New York’s Request for Help with Cross-State Air Pollution

Decision Leaves the Health of Millions at Risk

September 24, 2019
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – September 24, 2019) The Trump administration has officially refused to help the state of New York reduce smog-forming pollution that blows across its borders and endangers the health of millions of people.

The administration just denied New York’s petition for help under the “Good Neighbor” provisions of the Clean Air Act.

“EPA’s decision means New Yorkers face an increased risk of serious illnesses, and Americans in all downwind states have another reason to believe EPA will not protect their health,” said EDF senior attorney Graham McCahan. “States that are working hard to clean up their air are at the mercy of their more-polluting neighbors, and EPA is shirking its duty to help them. How ironic that EPA announced this decision just after our courts upheld the most recent Cross-State Air Pollution Rule – and even said it should be strengthened.”

“The same coal-fired smokestacks that cause smog in our cities also cause acid rain in the Adirondack Park,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, an environmental group that has been fighting acid rain since 1975. “The Adirondack Park has suffered the nation’s worst damage from acid rain, which has killed fish and forests and contaminated the food chain with mercury. The EPA’s refusal to enforce the smog rules means more acid rain damage in the Adirondacks. EPA has a moral and legal obligation to honor New York’s petition for relief from this pollution.”

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 the dirtier air that blows across their borders from coal plants in upwind states. A new EDF analysis found that we’ve seen more than 2,500 instances of unhealthy smog so far in 2019 – instances that affected 185 million Americans across 40 states.

The Clean Air Act obligates EPA to safeguard downwind states against smog-forming pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources in upwind states. Those obligations are described in what is commonly called the “Good Neighbor” provisions of the Clean Air Act.

New York submitted a petition to EPA in March of 2018 for help under those Good Neighbor provisions. The state has struggled with cross-state pollution from hundreds of sources in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. New York asked EPA to find that emissions from the sources in those nine states are significantly interfering with its ability to meet our national health-based smog standards.

In May, the Trump administration released a proposal to refuse New York’s request. EDF was one of the many groups across America that submitted comments and testified at a hearing opposing that action. In spite of that opposition, EPA has finalized its refusal to help New York.

Trump’s EPA has also denied requests from Maryland and Delaware for help with dangerous border-crossing pollution. Both states have gone to court over those decisions. EDF is part of a coalition of health, environmental and community groups that has joined the lawsuit in support of the states.

EPA’s decision not to help New York comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of an updated and strengthened version of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. That landmark emission standard was created under the “Good Neighbor” provisions to protect downwind states across the Eastern U.S. The court denied claims that the rule is too protective, and decided that one aspect of it must be strengthened further. EDF was a party to that case as well.

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