State agencies can demand more pollution data, court rules

Local and state regulators will no longer be barred from requesting more detailed pollution data than that required by the federal EPA in an important court ruling.

The federal appeals court has struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule which prohibited other authorities from including stronger air pollution monitoring requirements as conditions in permits.

The court ruled that permitters were within their rights to ask for more accurate measurement of dangerous emissions and there was a public interest argument in releasing this information.

The ruling is likely to have an impact on some 18,000 major industrial facilities.

The challenge was brought by environmental law firm Earthjustice acting on behalf of a number of US-based environmental NGOs.

The law firm hailed the decision as a huge victory for ‘everyone that breathes’ and said it would allow local regulators to keep a closer eye on polluters.

The court held that EPA violated the Clean Air Act in allowing the largest air pollution sources to avoid monitoring, recording and recordkeeping of air pollution emissions needed to assure compliance with clean air laws.

The EPA rule actually barred permitting agencies from requiring any of these activities in clean air permits.

“We can’t have strong enforcement of our clean air laws unless we know what polluters are putting into the air,” said Keri Powell, the lawyer who argued the case.

The court ruling impacts emission monitoring requirements for thousands of facilities subject to “Title V” operating permits. The decision means that the public and air pollution enforcement agencies can now look forward to regular access to reliable monitoring data demonstrating whether large factories, power plants, cement kilns, incinerators and other facilities are polluting the air illegally.

Sam Bond

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