Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of Pennsylvania’s deficient plan to reduce air pollution. The Commonwealth’s regional haze plan requires no emission reductions from any of its 33 coal-fired power plants or factories, the major sources of hazy, unhealthful air in our parks and neighborhoods.
Earthjustice brought the suit on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association, the Sierra Club, and the Clean Air Council, charging that EPA has failed to require Pennsylvania to comply with the Clean Air Act. EPA has a legal requirement to protect air quality in America’s iconic national parks and wilderness areas.
Inadequate air pollution standards for large power plants and factories risk the public’s health while also degrading air quality and visibility at treasured public lands—including nearby Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.
This is the second time EPA has failed to require the state to comply with the Clean Air Act regarding haze pollution. During the first legal review in the U.S. Court of Appeals, EPA took back its original approval of Pennsylvania’s inadequate haze plan for further consideration. On April 30, EPA acknowledged many flaws with the Pennsylvania haze plan, and yet approved the plan again, having made no changes.
“EPA approved the same plan again even though the Commonwealth requires no reduction in pollution at any plant,” said Charles McPhedran, an attorney with Earthjustice. “We need clear views and clean air in our national parks and communities. EPA must cut air pollution now.”
“The law on the books says we need to deal with the pollution choking our national parks,” said Matt Elliott, Pennsylvania and Delaware Program Manager with NPCA. “Pennsylvanians deserve clean air, and so do the national parks and wilderness areas they love. Plus, this same pollution travels over our communities, schoolyards and backyards and throughout the region. The Commonwealth and EPA alike have turned a blind eye to their duty, which is why we’re going to court.”
“Responsibility for our pollution doesn't end at the state line,” said Thomas Schuster, Campaign Representative for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. “Pennsylvania's air pollution affects not only our own public treasures but those in surrounding states as well. Our coal-fired power plants shouldn't get a free pass to pollute from the EPA.”
“Pennsylvania once again is showing how it favors protecting coal industry’s financial interests at the expense of protecting public health and the natural environment,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director, Clean Air Council. “If Pennsylvania and the EPA will not look after the public's need for cleaner air, then perhaps the courts can.”
Earthjustice is seeking to overturn EPA’s approval of the Pennsylvania haze plan and require EPA to impose effective air pollution limits.
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.