EmpireStateNews.Net: Ag presses EPA on interstate air pollution

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman 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.