A federal judge ruled in favor of Connecticut and the Sierra Club late Wednesday, finding the Environmental Protection Agency failed to act on a petition involving emissions from the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in Pennsylvania.
U.S. District Judge Warren Eginton ruled in favor of the state’s motion for summary judgment and ordered the federal agency to hold a public hearing on a proposed decision within 30 days. In addition, Eginton wrote that the agency, which on several occasions asked for extensions, take final action to make the requested finding or denying the state’s petition within 60 days.
The state filed its lawsuit in federal court in Connecticut in May 2017 in an effort to compel EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to comply with the Clean Air Act, and to act on a petition submitted in June 2016. The petition deals with interstate pollution, and seeks a finding by the EPA that emissions from Brunner Island are “significantly contributing to Connecticut’s non-attainment of the 2008 ozone national ambient air quality standards.”
The EPA had requested the court set Dec. 31, 2018, as the deadline for its final agency action, with a proposed action on May 31, 2018, and a public hearing on July 2, 2018.
In his ruling, Eginton said, “The defendants have not sustained their heavy burden of demonstrating the impossibility or infeasibility of complete review of the petition within the 60-day period accorded as appropriate by Congress.”
The ruling comes three weeks after Connecticut and New York filed a lawsuit against the EPA for allegedly failing to control ozone pollution from upwind states. Jaclyn Severance, communications director of the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, said the lawsuits were distinct and different. She said the ruling Wednesday was specific to Brunner Island and was solely a Connecticut issue.
In addition, a coalition of 11 state attorneys general, including Connecticut, filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday challenging the Trump administration’s suspension of the 2015 Clean Water Rule.
The state was represented by Jill Lacedonia and Matthew Levine, both assistant attorney generals.
In an emailed statement Wednesday, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said, “While Connecticut has stringent air pollution laws, our state suffers from poor air quality due to out-of-state sources over which we have no control, like the Brunner Island plant. EPA has a responsibility to act on petitions before it, yet has failed to take the required action on Connecticut’s petition regarding Brunner Island. With this ruling, the court is requiring EPA to act, which is a welcome step forward toward addressing this source of air pollution in our state.”
An EPA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. In addition, no one from either the Sierra Club or the Connecticut Fund for the Environment immediately responded to a request for comment.