A.G. Schneiderman Presses EPA To Implement Key Measures To Protect New York From Out-Of-State Air Pollution

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that he has called on the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect New York's air by implementing a proposed rule -- ordered by a U.S. appellate court over two and a half years ago -- that would slash the amount of air pollution currently allowed to cross state lines.  Since pollution blown in from other states contributes substantially to smog, soot, and acid rain problems in New York, EPA's action on the rule is essential to achieving and maintaining cleaner, healthier air in the state.   

"Every day, pollution from upwind states blows into New York, spoiling our environment, contaminating the air we breathe, and harming our health," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Cutting the amount of air pollution that crosses state lines would avoid hundreds of thousands of illnesses and produce benefits worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually nationwide.  To realize these enormous benefits and protect New Yorkers' air -- and lungs -- without delay, the EPA should take prompt action to help stem the dangerous tide of dirty air flowing into New York." 

Attorney General Schneiderman's call for action is contained in a letter that he and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper sent jointly to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last week.  The letter addresses the EPA's proposed "Transport Rule," which is an air pollution regulation arising from a 2005 lawsuit brought by North Carolina and supported by a 10-state coalition led by New York.  The proposed Rule will reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) air pollution that cross the boundaries of 31 states and the District of Columbia into other states.  In the letter, the Attorneys General call on Administrator Jackson to issue the Rule in final form by no later than June 30 of this year to ensure that downwind states begin to see improved air quality starting next year.

In July 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision supporting the States’ position that EPA had to require reductions in the interstate transport of air pollution that would enable downwind states such as New York to meet their own requirements under the Clean Air Act.  The Court then sent the prior rule back to the Agency to comply with this mandate.  On June 6, 2010, EPA issued its revised proposed Transport Rule to respond to the Court's order.  The Attorneys General seek finalization of this proposed Rule.

The air pollutants SO2 and NOx, which can travel hundreds of miles after they are emitted, have significant consequences for New Yorkers.  According to the American Lung Association, over 12.5 million residents of the state -- roughly 65 percent of all New Yorkers -- live in counties where levels of soot and smog pollution endanger health.  New York City is ranked by the Association as among the 25 U.S. cities most polluted by soot and smog. 

Once the proposed Transport Rule is finalized, the benefits will be both swift and profound.  For New York alone, EPA projects that, in 2014, the Rule will yield up to roughly $20 billion in annual benefits and prevent approximately 2,400 annual premature deaths.  Nationally, EPA expects the Rule to yield $120 to $290 billion in annual benefits in 2014 -- exceeding the rule's estimated $2.8 billion total annual cost of compliance by over 40 to 100-times.  Many of these annual benefits relate to improved public health -- including preventing 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 26,000 hospital and emergency room visits, and 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma in 2014.

The Rule will also benefit the environment by improving visibility in national and state parks, and contributing to reductions in acid rain, which has severely damaged lakes, forests, and wildlife throughout New York’s Adirondack and Catskill regions.

The Rule will help achieve its health and environmental benefits by causing major reductions in emissions of SO2 and thus, reductions in the amount of the related pollution that will blow into New York and other states.  By 2014, the Rule will require 31 eastern, southern, and mid-western states and the District of Columbia to substantially cut power plant emissions.  According to the EPA, in 2014, the Rule and other actions will reduce emissions of SO2, a prime contributor to soot pollution and acid rain, by a total of 6.3 million tons (a 71 percent reduction) from 2005 levels.  Emissions of NOx, which contributes to smog, will be reduced by 1.4 million tons (a 52 percent reduction).

While the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) confers dual responsibility on the EPA and the states to improve and maintain air quality, the Act's “good neighbor” provision specifically requires the Agency to address the interstate transport of air pollution.  In the letter, Attorneys General Schneiderman and Cooper not only call upon EPA Administrator Jackson to issue the Transport Rule in final form by no later than the end of June, but also to provide a full timetable for the steps the Agency anticipates taking to achieve this deadline. 

This action is a further step in Attorney General Schneiderman's clean air initiative, a major effort focused on ensuring New Yorkers are able to enjoy the full environmental, health, and economic benefits of clean, healthy air.  In January, the Attorney General, joined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, sued a major Pennsylvania electric power plant over multiple violations of the CAA. The plant, Homer City Station, is the largest single out-of-state contributor of SO2 pollution to New York.  The facility emits approximately 100,000 tons of SO2 annually – more than twice as much of this harmful pollutant as all of the power plants operating in New York combined.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael Myers of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau.