The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Sierra Club have entered into a proposed consent decree that would partially resolve a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club against the agency. Notice of the proposed settlement was published in the Federal Register on February 5, 2015. The EPA is accepting comments through March 9, 2015.
If approved, the consent decree will partially resolve the Clean Air Act citizen suit the Sierra Club initiated against the EPA on July 15, 2014, to compel the agency to approve or disapprove State Implementation Plans (SIPs) for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). At issue are infrastructure SIPs which implement the Clean Air Act’s good neighbor provisions. The good neighbor provisions require SIPs to ensure that ozone-forming emissions will not impact the ability of downwind states to attain the NAAQS.
The Clean Air Act sets deadlines for the EPA to take action with respect to state SIP submissions. Within six months of receiving a SIP, the EPA must determine whether the submission is complete (or it is administratively deemed complete). Section 110 of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to approve or disapprove a state SIP within one year of the completeness determination. The Sierra Club brought this lawsuit to compel the EPA to approve or disapprove numerous pending SIPs. The proposed consent decree establishes deadlines ranging from March 31, 2015, to September 30, 2016, for the EPA to approve or disapprove the following states’ infrastructure SIPs: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Utah.
The partial consent decree does not resolve the first count of the Sierra Club’s complaint which seeks to compel the EPA to make a finding that Tennessee failed to submit a 2008 ozone NAAQS Infrastructure SIP.