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Sierra Club files Suit Against EPA to Protect Arkansas’ Air

July 24, 2011

December 7, 2010:

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Sierra Club filed suit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit calls on Administrator Jackson to take action to approve or disapprove of Arkansas’ Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (Arkansas SIP), a determination which was required to have been made under the Federal Clean Air Act (CAA) many months ago. Due to EPA’s failure to approve or disapprove the Arkansas’ SIP in timely fashion, measures required by the CAA to improve visibility impacts from air pollution in Arkansas have been significantly delayed.

The Arkansas SIP revision in question, which is largely codified as state law in Arkansas’ Regulation No. 19, would require, inter alia, many major pollution sources in Arkansas, including several large coal plants, to take a series of substantial steps to reduce emissions of visibility impairing pollutants, including fine particulates (soot), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Beyond their impacts on visibility, emissions of such pollutants wreak havoc on the environment and public health and create damaging acid rain and smog.

Under the CAA, every state in the union was required to propose a regional haze plan and submit it as a SIP revision for EPA approval. On July 29, 2008, the Arkansas Department of Environment Quality (ADEQ) submitted a proposed SIP encompassing Arkansas’ proposed regional haze plan to EPA for approval. According to the CAA, Administrator Jackson was required to approve or disapprove the Arkansas SIP by March 22, 2010. 1Unfortunately, Administrator Jackson failed to take action on the Arkansas SIP and, in March 2010, Entergy Arkansas, Inc. and several other companies which own and operate major sources subject to Arkansas’ new SIP proposal obtained a variance from the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (APC&EC) allowing them to delay compliance with Arkansas’ regional haze plan, which was effective as state law, until EPA approves it as part of the federally enforceable Arkansas SIP. Because Administrator Jackson has failed to comply with a mandatory duty to take action on the proposed Arkansas SIP, Sierra Club has filed this lawsuit to force Administrator Jackson to comply with the law.

While Arkansas submitted a SIP revision encompassing a regional haze plan, albeit after the deadline imposed by the CAA for such submissions, several other states failed to propose any regional haze plan to at all. For those states, the EPA is in the process of creating Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) to fill in for those absent SIPs.

Sierra Club Associate Field Organizer Lev Guter remarked, “Arkansas proposed a plan to EPA to clean up the air in our state. Ironically, since many other states have not filed their respective air plans yet, the EPA has focused its attention on those other states instead. Arkansas shouldn’t be neglected now for doing the right thing.”

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