R.I. sues EPA for decision on smog petition

THE U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created to protect human health and the environment. / COURTESY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency was created to protect human health and the environment. / COURTESY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

PROVIDENCE – R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin on Tuesday joined seven other states in suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a recent decision related to cross-state air pollution.

The lawsuit challenges an October decision by the EPA to reject the expansion of the “Ozone Transport Region.” The region was established as part of the Clean Air Act, and requires states to mitigate smog from blowing into downwind states.

“It’s been long established that Rhode Island and other northeastern states are negatively impacted by pollution from upwind states, and this latest decision by the EPA flouts sound environmental science and puts many Rhode Islanders – especially young children and older people – at serious risk of health issues,” Kilmartin said in a statement.

The Ozone Transport Region comprises eleven states – including all of New England – and Washington D.C. In 2013, a group of participants petitioned the EPA to expand the region to include nine more states, which the group identified as violators of federal smog standards.

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The states included Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, according to the petition.

The EPA rejected the request, saying there are better ways to improve air quality.

“The EPA believes that other [Clean Air Act] provisions … provide a better pathway for states and the EPA to develop a tailored remedy that is most effective for addressing any remaining air quality problems,” wrote the EPA in its denial.

The federal agency also cited “sufficient analytical gaps” in the technical information submitted to support the original petition.

Besides Rhode Island, the other states to challenge the EPA decision include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., asks the court to “determine the denial is unlawful and to vacate it.”

­Eli Sherman is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Sherman@PBN.com, or follow him on Twitter @Eli_Sherman.

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