Northeastern states will press Midwest, Appalachia on clean air

December 9, 2013

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) is among the eight Democratic governors pushing the EPA to force new clean air rules on other states ( Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan )

Governors of eight Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states will announce on Monday a push to force Midwestern and Appalachian states to cut air pollution they say is causing their citizens respiratory diseases and public health problems.

The governors will petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require nine states — Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — to reduce emissions. The eight downwind states say they have spent billions to reduce their own air pollution, but that pollution from elsewhere still overwhelms their environments.

“Delaware’s air quality remains overwhelmed by air pollution from upwind states — even though we have reduced emissions within Delaware of ozone-forming pollution by more than 70 percent since 1990,” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) is expected to say in a statement. “While Delaware’s in-state sources are well-controlled with state-of-the-art technology, this is simply not true of our upwind neighbors. As a result, Delaware pays more for healthcare resulting from respiratory illnesses and our industries are forced to do more than those in the states causing the pollution, and that’s simply unfair.”

Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont are petitioning the EPA to crack down. The governors of all eight states are Democrats; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has not signed on to the petition.

More than 95 percent of the pollution floating through the air in Delaware comes from other states, Markell said. The story is similar in other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, where between 70 percent and 98 percent of ozone air pollution comes from upwind states.

All eight of the petitioning states have joined the Ozone Transport Region. States that join the regional compact would have to take action the clean their air and replace high-polluting fuels with newer, cleaner technology. The downwind states have been critical of states to their west, where coal power dominates as a source of energy for power plants and factories.

States are allowed to petition the EPA to add their neighbors to an Ozone Transport Region under the Clean Air Act.

The governors’ action comes the same week the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the EPA’s so-called “good-neighbor” rule, which would require coal-producing states to implement measures to reduce smog and soot. The Obama administration issued the new rule in 2011, but 15 states challenged it in court; it was struck down by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C.

Republicans in Congress have been critical of the EPA’s new rule, calling them job-killers and citing threats of higher energy bills.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson | December 9, 2013