GreenLaw Seeks to Ensure Effective Air Pollution Control Requirements for Power Plants and Other Large Polluters

Effective State Implementation Plans are critical to achieving the air quality benefits promised by the federal Clean Air Act. Unfortunately, while advocacy groups typically pay a lot of attention to national rulemakings that establish the minimum requirements for state clean air plans (e.g., national rules for controlling air pollution from new major air pollution sources like power plants and incinerators), much less attention is paid to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of state plans designed to implement those national rules. That is especially true with respect to state revisions to those plans, which occur on a regular basis. Unfortunately, once EPA approves a state regulation or revision to that regulation into a state clean air plan, it becomes the operative requirement for Clean Air Act purposes even if it does not satisfy the minimum federal requirements.

The need to participate in EPA’s actions on state plan revisions is especially acute now, because EPA is in the fifth year of a 5-year agreement with the states to act on backlogged state clean air plan submittals. A primary reason that these submittals have been left pending for years without EPA action is that EPA did not think that they satisfied minimum federal requirements, but did not want to take the politically sensitive step of disapproving them. Thus, until now, EPA just didn’t act on these submittals at all. Now, in order for EPA to fulfill its agreement with the states, it must either approve or disapprove of these submittals, or else convince the states to withdraw them. Disapproving a state clean air plan submittal was difficult for EPA even under the Obama administration; under the Trump administration, it may be a non-starter. Thus, it is critical that advocates keep a close watch on EPA actions over the course of the next year. Collectively, these anticipated state plan revisions likely will have a significant impact on the adequacy of Clean Air Act regulation in Georgia and other states.

GreenLaw intends to track Federal Register notices pertaining to EPA state plan actions and comment on those that are most significant as time permits. The first step in this effort is to use the federal Freedom of Information Act to obtain access to information regarding pending state plan submittals. EPA is providing relevant records to GreenLaw on a rolling basis. Check out records provided to date here.