East Coast states petition EPA to crack down on out-of-state air pollution

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    (Smokestack image courtesy of Shuttersstock.com)

    Pennsylvania is part of a group of 12 states in the Northeast known as the Ozone Transport Commission that has been held to some of the country’s strictest air pollution standards for the last decade.

    But Governors from eight of those states say their efforts have been thwarted by air pollution blowing from neighboring states further west like Ohio and West Virginia and as far away as Illinois and Kentucky. Now they want the EPA to expand the Ozone Transport Commission and hold those states accountable to the same standards.

    “Most Americans try to be good neighbors and live by the golden rule,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell. “Yet our states are receiving hundreds of thousands of tons of pollution from the states that are upwind of us.”

    Delaware’s Secretary of Environment and Energy, Collin O’Mara said as much as 98 percent of the pollution in some of the states that signed the petition can come from out-of-state sources.

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    All eight of the governors who have signed it are Democrats. Republican governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett haven’t signed. Corbett’s Energy Executive Patrick Henderson said the administration is still considering it, although the eight governors turned in their petition to the EPA on Monday in Washington, D.C.

    “We want to make sure that that right balance is struck here and that we don’t have Pennsylvanians paying to clean up someone else’s dirty air that may come into the commonwealth,” Henderson said.

    Delaware’s Secretary O’Mara praised Pennsylvania’s efforts as the fourth largest coal producing state in the U.S.

    “They have been aggressive, maybe not as aggressive as some of the other states in this petition, but they continue to be part of the solution for the Mid-Atlantic region just given the scale of their fleet,” O’Mara said.

    The governors’ petition comes the day before the Supreme Court is preparing to hear a challenge to the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule or the so-called “good neighbor rule.” The Cross-State Air Pollution rule created new limits on nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide for 27 states, and applied to pollution that crossed state lines, but was thrown out by a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals in August 2012. The EPA and a number of environmental groups have brought the case to the Supreme Court. Justices will hear oral arguments on Tuesday morning.

    The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would force aging coal-fired plants to either install new “scrubbers” or shut down. Corbett and other Republican governors in coal-producing states have criticized the EPA’s efforts to limit coal emissions as overstepping the agency’s bounds.

    Energy Executive Henderson says that is a separate issue than whether or not to sign the governors’ petition which is about states policing their own pollution.

    “Expanding the membership of the OTC as a point of discussion is really about who’s at the table,” Henderson said. “It’s not necessarily about the scope of the regulations.”

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