(WBNG Binghamton) Leading a coalition of 10 states and 5 cities, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Monday announced the filing of a court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to take prompt action to reduce the amount of air pollution that is currently allowed to cross state lines.
According to a news release from Schneiderman's office:
The filing is in support of a request by the federal EPA and a group of public health and environmental organizations for the Court to review and reverse a lower court decision that invalidated an agency rule requiring substantial cuts in the interstate transport of pollution.
"The health of millions of New Yorkers continues to be harmed by soot, smog and other air pollution, a large portion of which blows in from states to our south and west," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "We have no way of controlling the amount of the dirty air that flows into New York from out-of-state power plants and we need federal action to stop this pollution. Our coalition is urging the Supreme Court to review this matter and reinstate sensible and legal EPA rules that will help stem the tide of interstate pollution - and protect New Yorkers' air and lungs."
The federal Clean Air Act confers dual responsibility on the EPA and the states to improve and maintain air quality both in-state and in downwind states. When states' efforts to address interstate air pollution are inadequate, the Act specifically requires EPA to address the interstate transport of air pollution.
In July 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision supporting the position that EPA must reduce the interstate flow of air pollution that would enable downwind states, such as New York, to timely meet air quality standards under the Clean Air Act. The Court then sent the prior rule back to the Agency to comply with this mandate. In August 2011, EPA finalized the "Transport Rule," an air pollution regulation that would reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) air pollution emitted by power plants in 28 states that blows into other states. By 2014, this rule, and other state and federal actions, would reduce power plant emissions of SO2 by 73 percent and NOx by 54 percent, from 2005 levels.
SO2 and NOx are air pollutants that can travel hundreds of miles after they are emitted, with significant consequences for New Yorkers. According to the American Lung Association, in 2012, over 3.2 million residents of the state live in counties where levels of soot and smog pollution endanger health. New York City was ranked by the Association last year as 15th among the 25 U.S. cities most polluted by smog.
By controlling cross-state movement of these pollutants, EPA's Transport Rule would offer swift and substantial benefits. EPA projected that the Rule would yield up to roughly $17 billion in annual benefits and prevent approximately 2,000 premature deaths a year in New York alone by 2014. Nationally, EPA expected the Rule to yield $120 to $280 billion in annual benefits in 2014 -- exceeding the rule's estimated $2.4 billion total annual cost of compliance by over 50 to 110-times. Many of these annual benefits relate to improved public health -- including preventing 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths, 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits and 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma in 2014.
Nonetheless, in August 2012, a panel of the same D.C. Circuit court invalidated the Transport Rule. That court also denied, on January 24, 2013, petitions from New York and other states and cities for a rehearing by the full court.
EPA and the American Lung Association and other public health and environmental organizations have petitioned the Supreme Court to review and reverse the D.C. Circuit’s decision. Today's filing to the Supreme Court by Schneiderman's coalition is in support of those petitions.
In addition to New York, the states joining in the filing are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia. The joining cities are Bridgeport, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.