Connecticut and New York sue EPA over failure to control ozone pollution

FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2017, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees of the EPA in Washington. Federal scientists have determined that a family of widely used pesticides poses a threat to dozens of endangered and threatened species, including Pacific salmon, Atlantic sturgeon and Puget Sound orcas. The National Marine Fisheries Service issued its new biological opinion on three organophosphate pesticides _ chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion _ after a years-long court fight by environmental groups.Pruitt in March reversed an Obama-era effort to bar the use of chlorpyrifos on fruits and vegetables after peer-reviewed academic studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children's brains. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its leader Scott Pruitt have failed to adequately control ozone pollution from other states, says a federal lawsuit filed by Connecticut and New York.

The lawsuit claims the EPA failed to perform its mandatory duty to enforce the Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor Provision, which requires states be “good neighbors” by not emitting air pollution in amounts that cause other states to fail to meet air quality standards.

“EPA determined in 2015 that Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia had failed to submit adequate plans to meet this requirement with respect to ozone, Attorney General George Jepsen’s office said in a press release. “Therefore, EPA was required by Aug 12, 2017, to issue federal plans to bring these states into full compliance with the Clean Air Act, but by its own admission, the  EPA has failed to do so.”

The press release said the EPA’s failure to act puts an unfair burden on Connecticut and New York, who are unable to meet their own ozone limitations due to pollution sources outside of their control. It said residents of those states are harmed by exposure to higher pollutant levels from ozone that travels into the states from others.

“Connecticut has robust regulations in place to protect clean air,” Jepsen said. “But as a downwind state, Connecticut suffers from poor air quality as pollutants from other states enter our atmosphere. The EPA has a responsibility to regulate these out-of-state pollutants, like ozone, yet the EPA has failed to do so.”

Ozone, a colorless and odorless gas formed when other atmospheric pollutants react in the presence of sunlight, can cause negative health effects when individuals are exposed to high levels. It can aggravate conditions like asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and emphysema and can also cause coughing, throat irritation and lung tissue damage.

Gov Dannel Malloy applauded Jepsen’s decision to sue and called the EPA’s shortcoming another example of the Trump Administration failing to stand up for Connecticut residents.

“While we have critical protections to maintain air quality in Connecticut, pollution from other states without similar standards is hurting our air quality and putting our residents at risk,” Malloy said. “It is the EPA’s responsibility to enforce the Good Neighbor provision of the Clean Air Act, and they have failed.”

State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee echoed Malloy’s statement, saying though Connecticut has some of the strictest air pollution regulations of any state in the nation, pollution blown in from other states causes the air Connecticut residents breathe to be some of the worst in the Northeast.

“It is incumbent upon the EPA to protect the health and welfare of all residents in a timely manner by recognizing that air pollution does not stop at state borders and holding those upwind states accountable for the pollution they send to Connecticut,” Klee said.


Gabriella Debenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.