Schneiderman Leads Lawsuit Against Scott Pruitt For Delaying Smog Protection

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday that he is suing the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency for dragging its feet on combatting dangerous smog pollution.

The suit, led by Schneiderman and filed with a coalition of 15 other state attorney generals, also names EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, a climate change denialist and close ally of the fossil fuel industry appointed by Trump. In June, Pruitt announced that he would be granting high-smog areas a one-year extension in following the ozone emission rules required by the Clean Air Act—a decision that Schneiderman called "arbitrary and capricious."

"One in three New Yorkers are breathing dangerous levels of smog pollution pouring in from other states," Schneiderman said in a press release. "Yet again the Trump EPA has chosen to put polluters before the health of the American people.

According to a State of the Air study released this year by the American Lung Association, the New York metro area ranks as the country's ninth most polluted city in terms of ozone, and is the only region in the top ten not on the west coast. Those harmful levels of ozone, according to the ALA, often travel from other states with less strict air quality regulations.

As part of the Clean Air Act, areas designated as having unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone—otherwise known as smog—are required to submit implementation plans to reduce pollution. But in June, Pruitt informed governors that he'd be extending the deadline for this designation by one year, citing "a host of complex issues that could undermine associated compliance efforts by states, localities, and regulated municipalities."

The extension is the latest in a long list of Obama-era climate regulations that Pruitt has delayed or reversed in his short tenure at the EPA. Among them: ordering the agency to stop collecting methane emissions data from thousands of oil and gas producers; pausing regulations to stop power plants from dumping toxic metals like arsenic and mercury into public waterways; and suspending restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry.

The latter suspension was overruled by a federal appeals court on Monday night, with a court finding that the emissions stay would lead to the release of "substantial additional methane, ozone-forming [volatile organic compounds], and hazardous air pollutants." According to the Environmental Defense Fund, that proposed suspension of regulations was made without public input or analysis of the health and environmental consequences—a characterization echoed by Schneiderman and his fellow attorney generals in announcing their latest lawsuit.

"By illegally blocking these vital clean air protections, Administrator Pruitt is endangering the health and safety of millions," Schneiderman said. "We won’t hesitate to fight back to protect our residents and our states.”

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