Delaware seeks relief from downwind air pollution from other states


Delaware  plans to  send four Notice of Intent to Sue letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  regarding air pollution that comes into Delaware from other states.

The  letters, as required by the federal Clean Air Act, inform the EPA that the Delaware Department of Justice – acting on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control – will file suit against EPA for its failure to require power plants in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to reduce air pollution that significantly affects the quality of the air that Delawareans breathe.

Delaware had previously petitioned for relief.

 “The Clean Air Act entitles Delaware to relief from upwind pollution and the remedy we are seeking is reasonable and within EPA’s authority and responsibility to grant,” said  Gov. John Carney. “Delawareans deserve clean air, but our air quality is significantly impacted by pollution traveling downwind from other states. We are simply asking that the EPA require these power plants that pollute Delaware’s air to run their existing pollution control equipment when the plants are in operation.”

Four petitions filed between July and November 2016 by DNREC under Section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act, sought to have EPA require certain power plant units in upwind states to use their air pollution controls to reduce emissions. 

 Ground-level ozone, or smog, has been one of Delaware’s  biggest  pollution problems. More than 90 percent of the ozone in Delaware originates from emissions in upwind states, according to a release.

The release did not mention pollution from vehicles that travel along the I-95 corridor. The state has taken steps that included a new toll plaza that reduced pollution-causing back-ups.

While, Delaware has made  progress on improving air quality in recent years, emissions from out-of-state power plants continue to prevent Delaware from attaining and maintaining federal health-based air quality standards, the state contends. The state is down to one coal-fired power unit at Indian River near  Millsboro, after generators were shut down or converted to other fuels  over the past decade or so at Indian River, Edgemoor and Dover.

Some of the gains have also been due to the closing of both of the state’s auto plants and its lone steel mill in the past decade.

“The Department has pursued – and will continue to pursue – voluntary and collaborative efforts with partner states to ensure upwind power plants meet the same stringent standards which Delaware is required to meet,” said Shawn Garvin, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. “It is now time for EPA to hold upwind sources accountable for ozone emissions that are impacting downwind states.”

Garvin served as the director of the region of the EPA that includes Delaware prior to the Trump Administration.

The effort is likely to be futile, given the pro-coal  stance of the Trump Administration and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt. Coal-rich Pennsylvania and West Virginia are often cited as the source of downwind power plant pollution.


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