Six Environmental Nonprofit Groups Sue EPA to Enforce Clean Air Act Provisions

On Tuesday, six nonprofits organized to protect and preserve the environment, including clean air, filed a lawsuit against the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michael Regan, to enforce provisions and required actions under the Clean Air Act.  

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, two California nonprofits, Air Alliance Houston and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, two Texas nonprofits, and Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future and the Clean Air Council, both Pennsylvania nonprofits. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs collectively have members living, working and engaging in outdoor activities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and U.S. territories that have been harmed by the EPA’s failure to enforce and abide by provisions of the Clean Air Act. 

Specifically, the plaintiffs state their members have suffered and continue to suffer harm to their health, recreational, aesthetic, procedural, informational and organizational interests by the EPA’s failure to enforce the Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor provision. 

The complaint states these provisions require states to control the pollution emitted within its jurisdiction that significantly contributes to violations of Clean Air Act standards in downwind areas. Further, the complaint states in 2015, the EPA strengthened the national ozone standard and required states to adopt plans implementing the Good Neighbor provision and submit them to the EPA for approval within three years. The complaint purports that if a state fails to submit a Good Neighbor plan or submits an inadequate Good Neighbor plan, the EPA must promulgate a federal plan instead.

According to the complaint, on December 5, 2019, the EPA found that four states, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia, failed to submit completed plans implementing the Good Neighbor provision, triggering the EPA’s requirement to promulgate federal plans for those states by January 6, 2022. The plaintiffs state that, as of filing their complaint, the EPA has not finalized federal Good Neighbor plans for Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia and has neither proposed nor finalized a federal Good Neighbor plan for New Mexico. 

The plaintiffs argue that the EPA’s unlawful delay harms millions of people, including their own members, who live, work or recreate in areas that fail to attain or struggle to maintain Clean Air Act standards. Accordingly, the plaintiffs bring the present suit seeking declaratory relief stating the EPA has failed to promulgate the required federal Good Neighbor plans under the Clean Air Act, injunctive relief preventing further violations, an order to Michael Regan to promulgate federal Good Neighbor plans for the states at issue, attorney’s fees and costs. The plaintiffs are represented by the Clean Air Task Force, Earthjustice and Sierra Club’s in-house counsel.