Groups sue EPA for tougher ‘secondary standards’ for air quality

Several conservation groups have accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of dragging its feet when it comes to updating key rules regarding power plant emissions linked to acid rain.

A 130-page legal brief was filed Nov. 30 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by groups including the National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Clean Air Council. The groups are represented by Earthjustice.

At issue in the case are secondary national ambient air quality standards for oxides of nitrogen and sulfur. EPA published a final rule in April.

Although EPA found that current standards do not provide adequate protection to ecosystems sensitive to deposits of nitrogen and sulfur, it failed to adopt a tougher standard, the petitioners said.

“Further, any uncertainties in the Aquatic Acidification Index standard cannot possibly provide a reasoned basis for the Administrator [Lisa Jackson]’s decision to retain the existing, outdated secondary standards that she herself concluded will allow ongoing harm to fish, forests, and wildlife in sensitive areas,” according to the petitioner brief.

The groups say that acid rain from air pollution has killed fish and other aquatic life in areas like the Adirondack Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley.

The groups have petitioned for review of EPA’s final administrative action in the matter.

The plaintiffs want the court to vacate the final rule and remand the case to EPA in order to establish a new standard that will prevent “aquatic acidification” and other impacts associated with acid rain.

While the Clean Air Act has lessened the harm from acid deposits that cause considerable damage to forests, streams and ecosystems, damage does still occur, the groups said, in various statements included within the brief. The groups also say EPA has refused to tighten the national standards.

The Utility Air Regulatory Group and American Petroleum Institute are intervening in the case. No oral argument has been scheduled yet in the Center for Biological Diversity versus EPA USCA Case No. 12-1238.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at