EPA to enforce vehicle emissions rules in Northeast US

The US Environmental Protection Agency has entered into a consent decree with the Midwest Ozone Group and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce to settle a suit against the EPA for not enforcing Clean Air Act requirements in six northeastern states. The complaint asked the court to order EPA to issue federal implementation plans for vehicle inspection and maintenance programs and attainment demonstrations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island.


Kate Thomas
OGJ Online

The US Environmental Protection Agency has entered into a consent decree with the Midwest Ozone Group and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce to settle a suit against the EPA for not enforcing Clean Air Act requirements in six northeastern states.

Filed May 10 in US District Court in Washington, DC, the complaint asked the court to order EPA to issue federal implementation plans for vehicle inspection and maintenance programs for a 15% reduction in volatile organic compounds (VOC) and attainment demonstrations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island.

"The consent decree provides deadlines by which EPA is required to propose and finalize federal implementation plans for ozone nonattainment areas in the Northeast states, if the conditions specified in the consent decree are not met," said David M. Flannery, counsel for the Midwest Ozone Group and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. He said the order preserves a seat at the negotiating table if EPA tries to delay the deadlines for issuing the plans.

"The consent decree is a big step in the direction of achieving clean air for citizens of the Northeast states,'' Flannery said. "We commend the agency's efforts to require the Northeast states to live up to their mandatory obligations under the Clean Air Act."

Representing a wide range of business groups, including electric utilities, coal, and petroleum companies and affiliated organizations from 11 states, the Midwest Ozone Group has criticized the EPA for failing to impose required vehicular emissions rules in Northeast while pursuing stationary sources of alleged air pollution in the Midwest.

In one of its largest environmental enforcement actions, the government filed a series of lawsuits Nov.3, 1999, charging that big electric utility companies and their subsidiaries made illegal repairs to facilities, causing the release of massive amounts of air pollutants throughout the Midwest and East Coast. The companies have denied the charges.

And while a Mar. 31 deadline has passed, in an interview with OGJ Online, Flannery said, "The obligation of the states to meet that deadline have not yet been satisfied, so the clock is literally running on the EPA to propose a federal implementation plan for each of those events that were to have occurred on Mar. 31." He said the date was set before all the details of the consent decree had been negotiated.

Conditions specified in the EPA consent decree with the Midwest Ozone Group include:

� If EPA does not fully approve an enhanced vehicle inspection and maintenance state implementation plan for the Boston-Lawrence-Worcester and Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester ozone planning areas in New Hampshire; the Portland ozone planning area in Maine; and the Providence, RI, ozone planning area by Mar. 31, 2000, the consent decree obligates EPA to propose an enhanced vehicle inspection and maintenance federal plan by Jan. 31, 2001, and finalize it by Oct. 1, 2001.

� If EPA does not fully approve a 15% VOC reduction plan for the Springfield ozone nonattainment area in Massachusetts by Mar. 31, 2000, the consent decree obligates EPA to propose a 15% VOC reduction plan by Oct. 2, 2000, and finalize it by Apr. 2, 2001.

� If EPA has not proposed approval of a full attainment demonstration for the Greater Connecticut ozone nonattainment area in Connecticut and the Springfield ozone nonattainment area in Massachusetts, the consent decree obligates EPA to propose a full attainment demonstration federal implementation plan by Nov. 15, 2000. If EPA has not approved a full attainment demonstration for each of these areas, the consent decree obligates EPA to finalize the plan by May 15, 2001.

� If EPA has not proposed approval of a full attainment demonstration for he New York and Connecticut portions of the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island ozone nonattainment area, the consent decree obligates EPA to propose a full attainment demonstration FIP by Oct. 15, 2001. If EPA has not approved a full attainment demonstration for each of these areas, the consent decree obligates EPA to finalize a federal plan by June 14, 2002.

A consent decree has also been lodged in a related case pending before the court (NRDC v. Browner, 99-2976 DDC), which imposes the same obligations and deadlines for EPA to issue attainment demonstration federal implementation plans in the Northeast, Flannery said.

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