The state of Delaware threaten to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly failing to protect its residents from poor air quality, unless it takes action.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control contend the agency has not required certain power plants in mid-and-western Pennsylvania and West Virginia to reduce air pollution that travels to Delaware and affects air quality.
“The Clean Air Act entitles Delaware to relief from upwind pollution and the remedy we are seeking is reasonable and within EPA’s authority and responsibility to grant,” said Governor John Carney, D-Delaware, in a statement.
“Delawareans deserve clean air, but our air quality is significantly impacted by pollution traveling downwind from other states. We are simply asking that the EPA require these power plants that pollute Delaware’s air to run their existing pollution control equipment when the plants are in operation.”
DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said power plants in upwind states not using proper pollutant controls contribute to an unhealthy ozone in Delaware, leaving residents vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.
More than 90 percent of the ozone in Delaware originates from emissions in upwind states, according to the state.
Garvin said Delaware has made efforts to reduce emissions, such as placing requirements on vehicles—but internal efforts aren’t enough.
“We’re starting to run out of things we can control within our own borders without the intervention and participation from EPA dealing with these cross jurisdictional issues,” Garvin said.
Pennsylvania, along with Delaware, is one of eight states involved in a separate lawsuit against the EPA for allegedly not requiring states in the Midwest and parts of the South to follow strict pollution standards. This lawsuit focuses on the issue at large, rather than specific power plants.
Garvin said Pennsylvania is impacted by pollution from its west, but also have facilities impacting states to its east.
In 2016, DNREC filed four petitions for relief to the EPA against the power plants in question, but assert EPA hasn’t acted on them.
“EPA generally has been a very good partner with the state. This area is one we haven’t been able to move the ball on,” Garvin said. “When we’re talking about pollution sources, being air or water, that come in outside the boundaries of our state we need that leadership from them to address places which we don’t have the authority to address—other than potentially using the courts to get them to do it.”
A spokesperson for EPA said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.