State Attorney General James, Adirondack Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club win Federal Clean Air Acid Rain Lawsuit

Washington, D.C. – The Adirondack Council and environmental advocates are very pleased with today’s decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit holding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted unlawfully when it denied requests under Clean Air Act section 126 from the states of New York and New Jersey and the City of New York seeking relief from interstate air pollution from power plants and other sources in nine upwind states. Section 126 is a vital protection for the Adirondack Park’s people, waters and nature from cross-state pollution and acid rain.

The lawsuit was filed by states of New York and New Jersey and the City of New York; the Adirondack Council, joined by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Sierra Club, participated as intervenors in support of the governmental parties.  The lawsuit was seeking to protect Northeast states from smog and acid rain generated by coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. The petitioners asked EPA to set limits on coal-burning power plants and other high-emitting sources so that the downwind states can meet health-based air quality standards. In today’s decision in New York, et al. v. EPA, the court held that the EPA’s test for downwind states to get relief under the statute was unlawful, calling it “at best, was a moving target and, at worst, demanded likely unattainable standards of proof.”

“The Adirondack Park, water, loons and economy were devastated by the impacts of cross-state air pollution until the science-based 1990 Clean Air Act amendments and bi-partisan enforcement of the good neighbor rule helped reduce Acid Rain impacts on the six-million acre Park,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “The future of the Adirondacks has been threatened by the current EPA’s rollback of environmental protections.”

We are grateful to the New York Attorney General Letitia James and her team for their hard work and effective advocacy on behalf of the region’s people and resources, as well as to our fellow intervenors EDF and the Sierra Club for their fine legal work in the case,” said Janeway.

The decision means that the EPA will have to review the downwind jurisdictions’ request for relief anew. The Adirondack Council’s lawyer in the litigation, Sean H. Donahue, stated: “In light of the court’s decision we expect that the EPA will promptly provide the relief urgently needed to protect the health of millions of New York and New Jersey residents – and to protect natural resources including the Adirondack Park from acid rain and other harms.”  

The nitrogen pollution from these coal-fired power plants turns into smog and shortens lives in New York City, the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island,” said Janeway. “Up here, it contributes to acid rain, killing fish and forests, and making mercury contamination worse. Coal kills.”

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities. The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action to ensure the legacy of the Adirondack Park is safeguarded for future generations. Adirondack Council advocates live in all 50 United States.

For more information:

William C. Janeway, Adirondack Council, 518-441-7665 cell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 14, 2020