We all know that air pollution is a problem throughout the nation, even in relatively pristine states like Oregon. Even though states may set their own environmental regulations, the fact is that pollution does not recognize state boundary lines. What happens, then, when one state is being horrifically polluted by the activities that occur in another jurisdiction? A Supreme Court case currently under consideration is slated to rule on this type of civil litigation, determining whether states or the federal government might be liable for fixing traveling pollution. Justices in the case have set aside a whopping 90 minutes for attorneys’ oral arguments; the long period of time indicates that those justices consider this case to be incredibly important.
This is the only major environmental case that will be considered by federal courts in the coming months. The specific issue in this case is the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s requirement that so-called “upwind” states be required to limit their air pollution to protect those in the Middle Atlantic and Northeast. The majority of those 29 upwind states, most of which are in the Midwest and South, are pushing for the court to reverse the EPA rule. Although those states say they often want to improve their air quality, industry in the areas is just too large to control. One environmental regulator said his state would still exceed specified maximums, even if emissions in the state were turned off entirely.
The stakes in this civil litigation case are anything but meager; experts say that about one in 20 American deaths are caused by ozone and particulate pollution. Further, hundreds of thousands of cases involving hospital admissions, heart conditions and breathing problems are all related to particulate matter in the air. This case will provide a significant ruling about the safety, health and welfare of American people and industry. Such complex litigation is often necessary to protect people from the unwanted effects of industry, but it is also needed to protect our nation’s economic growth. We will wait to learn more about the outcome of this federal litigation battle.
Source: www.usatoday.com, “Supreme Court weighs issue of cross-state air pollution” Richard Wolf, Dec. 08, 2013