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Attorney General William Tong

10/30/2019

CONNECTICUT SUES EPA OVER FAILURE TO ACT ON CROSS STATE AIR POLLUTION

(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal filed suit Tuesday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to take required steps to compel state action to control cross-state air pollution.

Despite having strict in-state emissions limits, Connecticut has been unable to meet federal ozone standards due to emissions from other states that travel into our state on the prevailing winds. This ozone pollution can reduce lung function and aggravate asthma.

"Connecticut has taken strong action to protect our air quality, but we are at the mercy of upwind states. We sit at the end of our nation's tailpipe, with pollution from our south and west blowing downwind into our state. We cannot control our geography, but we can take steps to compel the EPA and our neighbors to comply with federal ozone standards. Their actions directly impact families here, and they must meet their obligations under federal law," said Attorney General Tong.

“When states fail to meet their obligation to prevent pollution originating in their state from fouling our air, the federal Clean Air Act requires EPA to take action,” said Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes. “And when EPA fails to meet their duty to ensure that states follow the law, Connecticut must and will take legal action to protect public health and our environment.”

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), states are required to submit plans that show how they will regulate the sources of air pollution within their borders that contribute to a failure by any other state to meet a federal clean air standard. Where states fail to timely meet that obligation, the CAA requires EPA to take action as a backstop to protect downwind states.

The lawsuit seeks to require EPA to make an overdue finding that two upwind states that contribute significantly to ozone pollution in Connecticut – Pennsylvania and Virginia – have failed to submit CAA-compliant plans. This finding will then trigger a requirement that EPA implement its own plan to reduce emissions from those states that contribute to Connecticut and New Jersey's ozone nonattainment.

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, more than 90 percent of ozone levels in southwest Connecticut and more than 80 percent of ozone levels in some remaining parts of the state result from pollution that originates in areas located out of Connecticut’s jurisdiction and control. Readings at Connecticut air monitoring stations consistently show that that air entering Connecticut already exceeds ozone standards on days when quality here fails to meet federal standards, subjecting several million Connecticut residents to unhealthy levels of air pollution.

In a related matter, Connecticut and a coalition of six other states and the City of New York sued the EPA last January, challenging the EPA's 2018 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule "Close-Out" for failing to require any further control of smog pollution in states upwind of Connecticut. On October 1, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sided with the coalition, vacating the rule and remanding it back to the agency. Click here for the decision.

Assistant Attorney General Jill Lacedonia and Assistant Attorney General Matt Levine, Head of the Environment Department, assisted the Attorney General in this matter.

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Elizabeth Benton
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