Under the Dome

NC sues EPA for failing to act in northeastern states’ air pollution dispute

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency in a dispute over who is to blame for air pollution in Northern states.

In 2013, Northeastern state governors urged federal regulators to force air pollution reductions in North Carolina and eight other states. They contended that on hazy summer days up to 95 percent of their air pollution comes from other states, including North Carolina, and wanted emissions controls installed.

But North Carolina resisted, and said it has already cleaned up power plants, and forced the Tennessee Valley Authority to close aging coal-burning power plants that sent dirty air into North Carolina and pay the state $11 million.

"North Carolina is a leader in cleaning up its energy sector," DEQ General Counsel Sam Hayes said in a statement the department released. "The northeastern states' petition was nothing more than a political attempt to shift the blame for poor air quality in the Northeast."

The Northeastern states filed their petition in December 2013. The EPA had 18 months to approve or deny it, but it hasn’t taken action. This lawsuit, filed in federal court in North Carolina, asks a judge to find the EPA in violation of the federal Clean Air Act for failing to make a decision.

The Northeastern states are New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.