Editorial: What we can learn from the EPA lawsuit

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the Senate Environment Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Connecticut’s recent decision to collaborate with the state of New York in its lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency has brought this case into the attention of media in Connecticut. Initially, this lawsuit began with the EPA’s violation of the Clean Air Act, a “comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants."

According to Connecticut state officials, the EPA failed to regulate emissions from the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station power plants in Pennsylvania. The ozone pollution caused by these power plants has affected air quality in Connecticut and risks the health of residents. The complaint issued by the state of Connecticut claims that the emissions here “significantly contributing to Connecticut’s nonattainment of the 2008 ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), and/or are interfering with Connecticut’s maintenance of the same.” In other words, the ozone pollution caused by the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station plants have contributed to the failure to meet air quality standards, thus harming the residents of Connecticut.

This ongoing failure to regulate emissions caused legal tension between the EPA and the states of New York and Massachusetts since 2007, but has only come to the attention of Connecticut residents now. If action had been taken against the EPA before the air quality began to affect Connecticut, the safety of residents would have been spared. Failing to protect the environment before damages begin to affect the self-interests of residents has allowed the escalation of this conflict with the EPA. Raising public awareness, in all states that may be affected by the ozone pollution caused by the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station plants, before the pollution spreads as far as Connecticut could hinder the decrease in air quality in the Northeast. An important takeaway from this lawsuit is that it is important to protect the environment and advocate against pollution before it causes damages that threaten the health of residents.