PA Clean Air Council Sues EPA, Force Drillers to Reduce Ozone

The Pennsylvania anti-drilling group Clean Air Council is suing the federal EPA in an effort to force the EPA to clamp down on Marcellus drillers who the Clean Air Council says are creating too much ozone during drilling.

Because of health concerns due to air pollution from Marcellus Shale gas development operations in Pennsylvania, the Clean Air Council said it will sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce 2008 ground-level ozone regulations.

According to the council, a Philadelphia-based environmental organization, the EPA did not require Pennsylvania to adopt and submit a plan to control ozone, the main component of unhealthy smog, and the state did not do so by the March 2011 federal deadline.

Because it did not submit a state implementation plan, or "SIP," for the 2008 standards — which the EPA has said are not protective of human health — Pennsylvania is enforcing the weaker 1997 ozone pollution standards, the council said.

"Not only are Pennsylvania’s 1997 ozone plans outdated and out of compliance with Clean Air Act requirements, they do not account for the serious air pollution associated with the Marcellus Shale boom, which began in 2008," said Jay Duffy, the council’s staff attorney.

As required by federal law, the Clean Air Council on Oct. 24 sent a 60-day "notice of intent to sue" to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and EPA Region 3 Administrator Shawn Garvin.

The EPA did not respond to a request for a comment on the Clean Air Council notice or to questions about how many states, in addition to Pennsylvania, have not completed SIPs. Instead it shared a Sept. 22 letter sent by assistant administrator Gina McCarthy to regional air division directors, stating that the agency is "moving ahead with certain required actions to meet the 2008 standard" but is doing so in a way to "minimize the regulatory burdens on state and local governments."*

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Oct 29, 2011) – Group plans to sue EPA over ozone regulations