Northeast states press EPA to crack down on Rust Belt, South

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

Eight Democratic states in the Northeast are pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on cross-state emissions from Rust Belt and Appalachian states.

Democratic governors from Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont say that ozone-forming pollution travels from Midwestern states into their states through prevailing winds, reports Reuters. The governors are petitioning the EPA to regulate the emissions that cross into their borders ahead of a major Supreme Court argument on Tuesday.

Northeast states argue that their air is often polluted when air from the Rust Belt and Appalachia blows to north and east. All the while, Midwestern and Southern states get clean air from the Mountain West.

“We’re paying a lot of money to remove these compounds from the air,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy told The New York Times. “That money is reflected in higher energy costs. We’re more than willing to pay that, but the states we’re petitioning should have to follow the same rules.”

But the coal industry argues that the Northeast ozone pollution is mostly due to vehicles and business along the Eastern Seaboard.

“It’s been very convenient for Northeastern states to blame their ozone problem on Midwestern power plants, but they’re a very small part of the problem,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a former EPA assistant administrator who now lobbies for coal companies. “It mostly comes from all those vehicles and businesses along the Eastern Seaboard.”

Last year, federal judges struck down the EPA’s Cross-State Pollution Rule that regulated emissions moving across states. The court said the agency’s rule was too strict and didn’t give states enough time to put emissions-reduction plans in place.

Now the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether or not to revive that rule which would affect 28 states. Environmentalists and the Obama administration are arguing that the rule should be revived, while the coal industry and energy states say the law should be left dead.

“EPA’s own data showed that the agency was imposing emissions reductions far greater than necessary for downwind states to achieve attainment,” power producer Luminant’s lawyers told the court.

The rule would put huge strains on the coal industry, which is already feeling the pressure of EPA regulations.

Coal company Murray Energy Corporation’s spokesman, Gary Broadbent, said the EPA’s cross-state pollution rule was “absolutely irrational, exorbitantly expensive,” and that it “would kill thousands of jobs, with no environmental benefit whatsoever.”

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