Attorney General Hardy Myers today sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to adopt strong emission standards to reduce air pollution from new power plants across the nation. Myers was joined in the legal action by Attorneys General from nine states, the District of Columbia and the City of New York.
The Clean Air Act requires that the EPA review and revise emission standards for new pollution sources every eight years to ensure that they protect public health and the environment. On February 27, 2006, EPA issued revised regulations in accordance with a court order. However, the revised standards completely fail to regulate power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the major contributor to global warming. In addition, the revised standards for other air pollutants harmful to public health are unacceptably lax.
"Global warming is a reality," Myers said. "It is unfortunate that Oregon and other states must turn to the courts to convince the federal government that clean air is a national priority. Adhering to the Clean Air Act is not optional."
EPA's rulemaking in this matter is inadequate in two fundamental ways:
First, EPA refused to regulate carbon dioxide, despite overwhelming research and scientific consensus that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming and thus harms "public health and welfare." EPA's claim that it does not have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions is contrary to the plain language of the Clean Air Act.
Second, EPA failed to set adequate standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, power plant pollutants that contribute to soot, smog, acid rain and higher levels of respiratory disease. The law dictates that the emission safeguards be set at levels that require use of the best demonstrated technology, but EPA is setting weak standards that can be met through less effective technologies.
A growing body of evidence, including reports from the National Academy of Sciences, NASA and major universities, has found that increasing global temperatures will have dramatic effects in the United States, including rising sea levels, worsened air quality, water shortages and droughts, and increased intensity of hurricanes. Power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions responsible for increasing temperatures worldwide. According to current projections, dozens or even hundreds of new coal-fired plants will be built in the United States over the next 15 years. Under the current rule, these plants would face no requirement to control or reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Since the power plants have a life span of 40-60 years, the plants built in the near future will determine the level of our carbon emissions for generations.
A coalition of environmental organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environmental Defense today also filed a related petition.
Today's lawsuit was filed in federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is being handled by New York Assistant Attorney General Jared Snyder and Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Peter Lehner.
Stephanie Soden, (503) 378-6002