A federal ruling scored a victory – though likely a temporary one – for Connecticut in its ongoing fight with the Environmental Protection Agency over the pollution from other states that winds up in the Northeast.
A three-judge Federal Appeals panel in the District of Columbia Tuesday unanimously agreed with six states, including Connecticut, that the EPA needs to do more to control smog coming from 20 upwind states under the “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act.
The states, led by New York, filed suit in January against the EPA’s 2018 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule “Close-Out” decision. In that decision, the EPA said it had done enough to address cross-state air pollution under a 2016 requirement and was closing out the rule.
The federal appeals court disagreed, and sent the matter back to the EPA for more rigorous monitoring of pollution that travels across state lines.
In a statement, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called the decision “a major victory for downwind states like Connecticut who rely on strong interstate regulation to protect our air quality. We sit at the end of the tailpipe of the nation’s exhaust fumes, and without EPA action we are at the mercy of our country’s heaviest polluters.”
The state has consistently failed to meet ozone standards set by the EPA due to emissions from other states’ power plants, industrial facilities, automobiles and other polluters. Those emissions “cook” in the summer sun and become the ozone or smog that travels into Connecticut, in particular, on the prevailing winds.
Connecticut ozone exceedance days have been creeping up in recent years but were down a touch this past summer. (See all the data here.)
But there are already indications the Trump administration will appeal the decision. And the state is part of several other major environmental lawsuits against Trump administration policies that could have impacts on the quality of Connecticut’s air. The suits include opposition to the rollback of auto emission and mileage standards and the Trump administration’s replacement for the Clean Power Plan, which would allow existing power plants to pollute more.
Altogether, these and other legal challenges leave any air pollution solution in Connecticut with an unclear future.