EPA Sued for Missing Clean Air Act Deadlines

On Wednesday, several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Downwinders at Risk, filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs assert that the EPA violated section 7410(k)(2) of the Clean Air Act, a provision which requires the EPA to approve or disapprove of states’ “Good Neighbor” plans related to controlling air pollution within the Act’s deadline.

The Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor Provision mandates that states develop a plan to eliminate pollution which has a significant impact on the ability of other downwind states to maintain a healthy quality of air as established in 42 U.S.C. § 7409. According to the Act, states need to submit plans to adhere to the statutory air quality standard within three years of its adoption, while the EPA must approve or disapprove of the plans within 12 months of submission. The plans and approval process timeline were triggered when new standards were set by the Obama administration in 2015.

The complaint asserts that the EPA’s failure to approve of 32 state plans in accordance with the statute’s deadline prolongs the existence of harmful levels of ozone within downwind regions. The deadline for the last-submitted plan was November 21, 2020.

Ozone, which is often colloquially referred to as smog, occurs when sunlight interacts with polluting substances emitted by power plants, motor vehicles, and other sources. A high level of ozone at ground level can lead to immediate breathing problems, a worsening of health conditions such as asthma and COPD, and premature death.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Earthjustice,