PRESS RELEASE: SCOTUS blocks “Good Neighbor” rule intended to protect Connecticut and New York from Midwest pollution

Threatens New York and Connecticut with ozone pollution generated by upwind states

New Haven, CT — Today, the Supreme Court of the United States temporarily blocked an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to reduce air pollution from power plants and other industrial facilities that crosses state borders while litigation continues in the DC circuit. The policy, known as the “Good Neighbor” rule, governs emissions from 23 states that blow over state lines to affect others downwind, stymieing the latter’s ability to meet their air quality standards and posing threats to public health.

Through the Clean Air Act, the EPA may issue a federal plan to address pollution that significantly augments unsafe levels of ground-level ozone, or smog, formed partly from nitrogen oxide emissions migrating beyond state boundaries when states fail to do so on their own. By delaying implementation of the Good Neighbor rule while it’s held up in state courts, SCOTUS is hindering the EPA from providing immediate protection needed to states like New York and Connecticut from ozone pollution generated in the Midwest. Based upon the majority decision, it appears that same majority would be inclined to block the rule on the merits should it reach the Supreme Court again.

Roger Reynolds, senior legal director at Save the Sound, said, “This case will have a direct impact on air quality in the Long Island Sound region. Connecticut and New York are working hard to reduce their own emissions, but that commitment is undermined by pollution from upwind states. We cannot reach healthy air quality for our residents without addressing upwind pollution, in addition to local sources. Currently, a significant percentage of our ozone pollution problem—pollution linked to asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological issues, and low birth weight—originates from out-of-state sources that would be governed by the Good Neighbor provision. With this decision, the ongoing efforts by New York and Connecticut to improve air quality, decrease adverse health outcomes and hospitalizations, and reduce medical costs will be made much more difficult.

“This has been the worst three years for the environment at the Supreme Court since the start of the modern environmental era,” he added. “Anyone who cares about Long Island Sound, climate, clean air, and open space should be deeply troubled. The Supreme Court has issued major opinions blocking EPA’s efforts to address climate change under the Clean Air Act, West Virginia v. EPA, eliminating protections form large classes of waterbodies under the Clean Water Act, Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, and now limiting EPA’s ability to protect downwind states from upwind pollution. And there is more to come. In the next several days, the Supreme Court in Loper Bright Enterprises v Raimondo and Relentless v. Department of Commerce is likely to significantly curtail the ability of all federal agencies, environmental and otherwise, to make decisions necessary to oversee regulated entities and to protect the public. Save the Sound and allies submitted an amicus brief in Loper Bright.

“Another disturbing aspect of this decision was the remarkable and almost unprecedented manner in which the conservative majority reached out to the emergency docket and agreed to hear a case that had not been decided by any other court,” Reynolds said. “This is a stark illustration of the urgency with which this court is moving to dismantle the environmental and regulatory system that is so important to our environment and our health.”

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