The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to deny a handful of petitions submitted by Delaware in 2016 regarding harmful emissions from upwind state power plants.
Between July and November 2016, Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control filed four petitions to reduce emissions from upwind state power plants in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Maryland also filed a similar petition in November 2016.
Nearly two years later, the EPA says both states have not shown proof in how neighboring states prevent them from achieving air quality standards under the federal Clean Air Act.
"The Agency has concluded that neither Delaware nor Maryland has met their burden to demonstrate that the sources they named emit or would emit ozone forming pollutants at levels that violate the Clean Air Act’s good neighbor provision for the 2008 and 2015 ozone standards," the EPA said in a statement. "In addition, EPA’s analysis, does not show a violation."
Alan Muller, the executive director of the environmental group Green Delaware, said the news is not surprising, given the current political climate. He called it a failure of the EPA to do its job.
"Air pollution has real consequences in Delaware and it's extremely unfortunate that EPA is taking the position that it is on these petitions," Muller said.
Air pollution is linked to asthma, lung cancer and heart disease, among other things.
Being downwind from Pennsylvania and West Virginia power plants, Delaware is at a disadvantage, said Stephanie Herron, the volunteer and outreach coordinator for the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club. She says it's the EPA's job to step in.
"Unfortunately, air pollution does not stop at state lines, so we can't solve this on our own and we need our neighbors to act responsibly," Herron said.
State officials say more than 90 percent of Delaware's ozone comes from upwind state emissions. In a statement, Delaware's Senior U.S. Senator Tom Carper referenced New Castle County flunking the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air Report, and said the EPA's mission is to protect the health of the people.
"By denying our state, and others, the ability to reduce harmful pollution from upwind states, this EPA is shirking its primary responsibility, ignoring the needs of states and, most importantly, putting the health of Delawareans at risk," Carper said. "This is yet another example of Mr. Pruitt continuing to put the interests of polluters ahead of people."
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's proposal kicked off a 45-day public comment period on the decision to deny the petitions. The EPA also plans to hold a public hearing in Washington D.C. Delaware Public Media reached out to DNREC for a response, but did not hear back by the time of publication.