Representing the Ohio Public Interest Research Group (Ohio PIRG), Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in 2002 to compel EPA to take steps toward withdrawing Ohio's authority to regulate its own polluters under a Clean Air Act program known as Title V. Under Title V, every major stationary source of air pollution must obtain an operating permit that spells out pollution limits, monitoring requirements, compliance schedules, and other provisions to assure compliance with clean air safeguards. These permit programs are established by the states, but subject to the approval of the EPA.
More than 13 years after Congress adopted the Title V program into law, some of Ohio's largest polluters continue to operate without Title V permits. In addition, those permits that have been issued suffer from serious deficiencies that undermine their usefulness. EPA confirmed that Ohio is not implementing the permit program in compliance with federal requirements, but refused to issue a notice of deficiency that would set Ohio on a strict 18-month deadline to either resolve the problems or lose authority to administer the program.
"Ohio has some of the worst air pollution in the country," said Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell, who argued the case in court today. "Large facilities contribute tremendously to the state's dirty air and it's essential that they be subject to operating permits that reflect Clean Air Act standards. EPA has a responsibility under the Act to ensure that Ohio's Title V program is properly administered."
If the case filed by Earthjustice and Ohio PIRG is successful, EPA would have to issue a notice of deficiency that would set Ohio on a strict 18-month deadline to either resolve the problems with its clean air regulations, or lose authority to administer the program. Ultimately, either outcome would likely result in tighter controls on major sources of air pollution that are currently functioning with illegal or nonexistent permits.
"To protect Ohio's families from toxic air pollution we must enforce the Clean Air Act," said Erin Bowser, State Director of Ohio PIRG. "It is unacceptable that Ohio's polluters are getting away with poisoning our environment, threatening our health and keeping the public in the dark about side stepping pollution limits."