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EPA denies ‘Good Neighbor’ aid to NY

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently denied a petition to help the state of New York reduce pollution from other states that causes smog and acid rain and endangers the health of millions of New Yorkers.

In March 2018, the state Legislature requested federal funding from the EPA under “Good Neighbor” provisions of the Clean Air Act, claiming that entities in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia have produced smog that contaminated Chautauqua County and the New York City metropolitan area.

In an unofficial EPA document, Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the agency didn’t find any evidence of New York’s claims to be true.

Environmental advocacy groups such as the Adirondack Council and the Environmental Defense Fund disagree with the outcome.

“The EPA’s decision means New Yorkers face an increased risk of serious illnesses, and Americans in all downwind states have another reason to believe EPA will not protect their health,” said EDF Senior Attorney Graham McCahan. “States that are working hard to clean up their air are at the mercy of their more-polluting neighbors, and EPA is shirking its duty to help them. How ironic that EPA announced this decision just after our courts upheld the most recent Cross-State Air Pollution Rule — and even said it should be strengthened.”

William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council said, “The same coal-fired smokestacks that cause smog in our cities also cause acid rain in the Adirondack Park. The Adirondack Park has suffered the nation’s worst damage from acid rain, which has killed fish and forests and contaminated the food chain with mercury. The EPA’s refusal to enforce the smog rules means more acid rain damage in the Adirondacks. EPA has a moral and legal obligation to honor New York’s petition for relief from this pollution.”

Smog has been linked to premature deaths, hospitalizations, asthma attacks and long-term lung damage. States that are working to reduce smog are often undermined by the dirtier air that blows across their borders from coal plants in upwind states. A new EDF analysis found the nation has seen more than 2,500 instances of unhealthy smog so far in 2019 — instances that affected 185 million Americans across 40 states.

President Donald Trump’s EPA has also denied requests from Maryland and Delaware for help with dangerous border-crossing pollution. Both states have gone to court over those decisions. EDF is part of a coalition of health, environmental and community groups that has joined the lawsuit in support of the states.

EPA’s decision not to help New York comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of an updated and strengthened version of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

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