Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 21, 2017

Contact:  Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118, 
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 655-3900 x 308,
Stephen Stetson, Sierra Club, (334) 372-2576,  

Lawsuit Launched to Force Trump EPA to Ensure Alabama, Mississippi Comply With Clean Air Act Conflict of Interest Rules

MOBILE, Ala.— Conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency today for failing to ensure that Mississippi and Alabama have measures to prohibit conflicts of interest on state boards that approve and enforce Clean Air Act pollution permits.

Mississippi and Alabama, which are the only states where the EPA has failed to enforce the requirement, have both been out of compliance with the requirement for nearly 40 years, according to the notice filed today by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Environmental Health and the Sierra Club.

“A crucial part of the EPA's job is to make sure that people who work for polluters are not making decisions about air pollution permits,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If you don't do a good job of that, none of the rules matter. And that oversight duty has never been more critical than right now under the Trump administration.”

The Clean Air Act requires that states have plans in place to make sure a majority of the members of any state board or body approving or enforcing federal air pollution permits do not derive a significant portion of their income from individuals or companies seeking those permits or subject to enforcement orders.

The Act also requires that any potential conflicts of interest of state board members and heads of executive agencies be adequately disclosed.

“It's impossible to know whether your state regulators have conflicts of interests if you're not even looking,” said, Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “These rules are in place for very obvious reasons — you can't have people with strong financial ties to polluters making calls on who's polluting and who's not. It's a pretty simple principle.”

In March 2015 the EPA determined that the Mississippi state plan to implement the Clean Air Act failed to provide the required disclosure of conflicts for board members' incomes. On April 2, 2015 the EPA issued a determination that Alabama's state plan failed to comply with both requirements to prevent the board from having conflicts and to disclose potential conflicts.

“The people of Mississippi and Alabama deserve to know whether regulators approving pollution permits also approve paychecks from those polluters,” said Stephen Stetson, senior representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in Alabama. “We shouldn't have to wonder — the whole point of these rules is for the EPA to make sure proper oversight is in place, and they've failed at that important task.”

Once the EPA finds that a state plan fails to meet these Clean Air Act requirements the agency has two years to initiate a proposal to address the shortcomings. The agency has failed to meet that deadline for both Alabama and Mississippi.

The EPA has 60 days to respond to the notice before a lawsuit is filed.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and supporters dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Center for Environmental Health works with parents, communities, businesses, workers, and government to protect children and families from toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods.

The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization with more than 3 million members and supporters working to safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife, and preserve wild places through public education, lobbying, and litigation.

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