Attorney General James Leads Multistate Coalition to Protect Americans’ Right to Clean Air

Coalition of 10 Attorneys General and Two Local Governments Urges Court to Protect EPA Authority to Curb Dangerous Pollution That Crosses State Lines

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James led a multistate coalition in submitting an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of Texas v. EPA to defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under the Clean Air Act to ensure that each state does its fair share to reduce the air pollution that they send to other states. The brief responds to a claim by Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana that the EPA does not have the authority to independently review their state implementation plans (SIPs) to ensure that these states sufficiently curb dangerous air pollution that travels across state lines. Attorney General James and the coalition reject that argument and support EPA’s authority to ensure that all states follow federal law requiring them to reduce dangerous air pollution that causes high levels of ground-level ozone, or “smog,” beyond their own borders that can trigger severe respiratory problems and even lead to early death. 

“Air pollution doesn’t care about state lines, and pollution emissions in other states very much impact the quality of air in New York,” said Attorney General James. “That is why I am leading a coalition of my fellow attorneys general to defend the EPA’s authority to require that all states adhere to their responsibilities under the Clean Air Act. I will not allow other states to pretend their air pollution has no harmful effects elsewhere. New Yorkers can breathe easier knowing that we will always fight for clean air and commonsense pollution regulations.” 

Congress included the Good Neighbor Provision in the Clean Air Act to address the problem of interstate pollution and help ensure states fulfill their obligations to their neighboring states. In 2015, the EPA strengthened air quality standards for ozone. Around this time, the EPA found that emissions from power plants and other industries in two dozen upwind states, including Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, would significantly affect many of the coalition states’ ability to achieve safe air quality standards. In response, rather than provide SIPs outlining plans to reduce emissions and ozone pollution, many upwind states simply downplayed the harm to downwind states and their residents’ air quality or minimized the role they played. When the EPA disapproved of these states’ inadequate plans to curb pollution, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana challenged the EPA’s authority to enforce the Good Neighbor Provision and to ensure all states reduce air pollution emissions affecting their neighbors.  

Attorney General James and the coalition explain that the EPA does have the authority to hold states accountable and ensure upwind states will work to curb harmful ozone pollution. The coalition notes that more than 50 percent of ozone pollution in some of their localities comes from other states, including those challenging the EPA’s authority. Additionally, Attorney General James and the coalition explain that ozone harms the health of residents in their states, as elevated levels of ozone can trigger asthma, worsen bronchitis and emphysema, and even contribute to early death. The coalition urges the court to reject the efforts of Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana to ignore the Good Neighbor Provision and undermine the EPA’s power to protect states from air pollution originating in neighbor states.  

Leading this coalition of 10 attorneys general is part of Attorney General James’ ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers’ right to clean air and natural resources. Earlier this month, Attorney General James helped secure $2.8 million from FrieslandCampina due to air and water pollution in Delaware County. In July, Attorney General James joined a bipartisan, multistate coalition opposing a proposed settlement with 3M for contaminating drinking water supplies. In May 2022, Attorney General James brought a lawsuit against three New York City bus companies for violating city and state bus idling laws and causing significant air pollution. In May 2020, Attorney General James led a coalition of nine attorneys general to sue the Trump administration for limiting enforcement of environmental protection laws.  

Joining Attorney General James in filing this amicus brief are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; the county attorney of Harris County, Texas; and corporation counsel of the City of New York. 

This matter is being handled by Assistant Solicitor General Elizabeth A. Brody, Deputy Solicitor General Judith N. Vale, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division of Appeals and Opinions, and by Assistant Attorney General Morgan A. Costello, Chief of the Affirmative Litigation Section, and Assistant Attorney General Claiborne E. Walthall — both of the Environmental Protection Bureau.