NY plans to sue EPA over failure to protect New Yorkers from out-of-state pollution

NEW YORK — New York plans to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to curb dangerous smog from other states coming into New York.

The state is working toward clean energy goals, but New Yorkers are still at risk from smog coming into the state from other areas of the country. New York officials want the EPA to require five states — Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia — to address the pollution from their states impacting New York

“Millions upon millions of New Yorkers are still breathing unhealthy air due to smog pollution, a huge amount of which is blowing into New York from upwind states,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “If the EPA won’t follow the law, we’ll sue to protect the health of New Yorkers.”

The “Good Neighbor” provision of the federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to step in when interstate smog pollution becomes an issue. Schneiderman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo allege they aren’t doing their job.

At least one in three New Yorkers breathe air with unhealthy levels of smog pollution. The elevated levels of smog can cause lung tissue damage and aggravation of existing conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and emphysema, according to the EPA.  It’s also linked to premature death.

Smog is formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of sunlight, officials said. New York has among the lowest emissions of those compounds, but winds from other states bring smog in and make New York the ninth most smog-polluted area in the nation.

“New York is doing everything in its power to reach our clean energy goals, limiting air pollution and reducing our carbon footprint in every corner of the Empire State — but air pollution knows no borders,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s critical that these states take the necessary steps to reduce their environmental impact.”