(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Today, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and environmental partners continued their legal support of Maryland and Delaware’s efforts to compel EPA to require coal-fired power plants in other states to operate their pollution controls. Oral arguments in the federal court case surrounding those efforts were held at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
The two states, CBF, Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations filed lawsuits against EPA after it denied the states’ petitions requesting EPA to require the power plants to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx). The emissions are traveling across state lines due to wind patterns and polluting downwind states’ environments as well as threatening public health.
The power plants implicated in the lawsuit are in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. The plants have emissions controls installed, but data from the plants show those controls are not being fully run during the warmer ozone season months when NOx emissions cause smog. Human health issues related to smog exposure include difficulty breathing, throat irritation, impaired lung function, and increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions.
The NOx from these power plants also falls onto land and water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed where it contributes to the nitrogen pollution problem in the Bay. Excess nitrogen fuels harmful algal blooms that create dead zones in the water devoid of the oxygen needed to support marine life.
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to reduce the air pollution that travels across state lines, but in this instance the agency has failed to do so. Maryland and Delaware’s commonsense petitions requested that EPA set more strict emissions limits to ensure the coal-powered plants fully run their already-installed pollution controls. But EPA denied the petitions based on flawed reasoning.
The Court of Appeals is reviewing EPA’s decision to deny the states’ petitions and will decide whether that decision is justified. The court typically issues a ruling several months after oral arguments take place.
The case is: State of Maryland, et. al. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, et. al., Case No.: 18-1285.
In response to today’s oral arguments, CBF’s Staff Attorney Ariel Solaski issued the following statement:
“EPA’s failure to require these power plants to fully run their pollution controls is making it more difficult for Chesapeake Bay watershed states to reduce nitrogen pollution and protect public health. While the watershed states are working to reduce the pollutant, these out-of-state plants are spewing smog-causing emissions that travel downwind and fall to the ground and water far from the plants where they were generated, contributing to the Bay’s excess nitrogen problem. Citizens of Maryland, Delaware, and neighboring states shouldn’t be burdened with this preventable pollution. Today, we were encouraged by the court’s tough questioning of EPA’s reasoning.”