Massachusetts AG Healey Teams Up With East Coast States, Sues EPA Over Midwestern Air Fumes

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(UPDATED – 12/27/2017)

BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is once again teaming up with her New York counterpart, this time as part of an effort to put the smack-down on President Donald Trump over his administration’s apparent lax pollution-policing of industries — largely of the coal-fired variety — based in the Midwest.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with Healey and seven additional attorneys general, have slapped Trump’s Environmental Protect Agency chief, E. Scott Pruitt, with a federal lawsuit claiming that approximately nine states located to the immediate west and south are unfairly benefitting from relaxed smog pollution regulations.

The lawsuit cites a petition that appeared in the November 3 edition of the Federal Register, the U.S. Congress’s official repository, requesting “that the EPA expand the Ozone Transport Region (OTR) by adding the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and the areas of Virginia not already in the OTR in order to address the interstate transport of air pollution with respect to the 2008 ozone national ambient air quality standards.”

To summarize, the states of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island — and Massachusetts — are claiming that the states named in the November 3 petition are illegally ducking the smog pollution control mandates enacted under former President Barack Obama.

Schneiderman in a prepared statement claimed that “millions of New Yorkers are breathing unhealthy air as smog pollution continues to pour from other states.”

Healey’s communications director, Jillian Fennimore, provided the NewBostonPost with a statement Wednesday afternoon:

“The EPA itself has shown that pollution from upwind states can increase harmful levels of smog in the Northeast, yet refuses to take the steps required to reduce this exposure for our residents. As state attorneys general, we want to ensure that this agency is not ignoring its obligation under the Clean Air Act to curb dangerous ozone pollutants and protect public health.”

Schneiderman filed the complaint with the District of Columbia’s federal Court of Appeals.

The EPA under Pruitt has so far declined to add the nine states identified in the complaint to the “Ozone Transport Region,” a designation created under the Clean Air Act whose umbrella happens to cover the same states, including Massachusetts, that have joined up with New York as plaintiffs in the recently-filed lawsuit.

States with an OTR designation are mandated under federal law to submit pollution control plans, regardless of whether their prior state-legislated regulations already meet national ozone ambient air-quality standards.

Schneiderman claimed in his press release that “at least one in three New Yorkers breathe air with unhealthy levels of smog pollution,” but did not differentiate in his statement whether the statistic is skewed between New York state residents living in and around New York City and others living in parts hundreds of miles north and west of the five boroughs.

“The EPA’s own studies demonstrate that pollution from states upwind of New York contributes substantially to the state’s harmful levels of smog,” Schneiderman pointed out, although his release also pointed to the American Lung Association’s “2017 State of the Air Report” that ranked the greater New York City area as the ninth most smog-polluted urban area in the country.

Said Schneiderman:

“The federal government has a fundamental responsibility to act. Yet the Trump EPA has abandoned its responsibilities — repeatedly failing to act to control smog pollution that jeopardizes New Yorkers’ health. Attorneys general will continue to act to protect those we serve.”

The Ozone Transport Region, as created under Congress, includes 11 states, including the plaintiffs mentioned above as well as New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Maine; the District of Columbia is also included. New York, Massachusetts, and other member OTR states had previously in December 2013 petitioned to add nine additional states to the region, including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The EPA — even under the Obama administration — has thus far declined to act on the petition, although Schneiderman in his release noted that he and other member states including Massachusetts “subsequently negotiated a consent decree that required EPA to approve or disapprove the petition no later than Oct. 27, 2017.”

“On that date, Trump EPA administrator Pruitt denied the states’ Ozone Transport Region petition.”

Read Schneiderman’s complaint:

2017-12-26 AG Schneiderman Healey Et Al v EPA by Evan on Scribd