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N.E. States: Cut Coal Pollution

Montpelier — Gov. Peter Shumlin joined forces with seven other governors Monday, calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on air pollution coming from nine Midwestern and Southern states.

The eight Eastern states are submitting a petition to the EPA, requesting that it bring the other nine states under the same umbrella of air pollution standards. The Eastern states have adhered to ozone pollution requirements since the Clean Air Act passed in 1990, while other states have been exempt.

The governors — all Democrats — are irked by the discrepancy, largely because air pollution from upwind states has infiltrated their borders.

Shumlin and three other governors scolded the exempt states during a Washington, D.C., teleconference Monday.

“We are sick and tired of being the tailpipe for the polluters to our west and to the south,” Shumlin said.

The petition, and the accompanying news release, came one day ahead of a pertinent Supreme Court case.

The court is hearing arguments today on an EPA regulation called the “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.” Approved under the Obama administration in 2011, the rule forced states to curb pollution that crosses state lines. But challengers brought it to court, arguing that it conflicts with the Clean Air Act, and a federal appeals court struck down the rule.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said that attempts to persuade states to voluntarily sign onto the stricter regulations have been rebuffed. Opponents of the regulations say they would kill jobs while increasing energy costs.

Coal-fired power plants are a major culprit — as are vehicle emissions — and significant technological upgrades would be necessary for plants to meet the standards.

The infiltration of out-of-state emissions has had “significant” health and environmental impacts and is “destroying jobs” in Vermont, Shumlin said. He pointed, in particular, to the effect pollution has on fish and the maple syrup industry.

“Most importantly, it is costing us in our quality of life,” Shumlin concluded.

Richard Poirot, an acting section chief in the Air Quality and Climate division of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said Vermont, unlike some New England states, doesn’t exceed national standards for ozone.

But the majority of this type of pollution does blow into Vermont from the Midwest. Poirot said that a modeling exercise carried out by the EPA showed that 99 percent of the state’s ozone pollution originated out-of-state.

He cautioned, however, that the modeling was done based on a single site, located in the far southwestern corner of the state, which likely exaggerated the percentage. Sulphate and nitrate pollution also seeps into the state from the burning of fossil fuel, contributing to acid rain.

Shumlin and the other governors said they are maxing out on their ability to reduce pollution that originates in-state while Midwestern and Southern states shirk ethical responsibility by failing to curb pollution. Markell, for instance, chided the states for flouting the “golden rule.”

The other East Coast states that signed the petition are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.

The states targeted by the petition are Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.