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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Environmental Recap: Attorney General Donovan Announces Recent Environmental Actions

January 11, 2018

CONTACT: Robert F. McDougall, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3186

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced recent actions taken by his office to protect Vermont’s environment and issued the following statement: “Vermonters deserve clean air to breathe and clean water to drink,” said Attorney General Donovan. “Pollution knows no geographic boundaries and we will do our part to make sure that Vermont’s environment is not harmed by out-of-state sources. Sometimes that means opposing proposed federal budget cuts to the EPA, joining a lawsuit to make the EPA follow its statutory obligations, or fighting dangerous roll-backs coming from Washington that could hurt Vermont’s environment. We will continue to work to protect our environment.”

Recent actions taken by the Attorney General include:

  • CLEAN POWER PLAN: The Attorney General remains committed to the ongoing efforts to defend the Clean Power Plan, the EPA’s landmark regulation to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. On January 9th, Vermont joined with 12 states and 6 municipalities/counties and filed comments to the EPA opposing the repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is a strong, science-based policy that will to significantly reduce pollution from power plants, the country’s largest stationary sources of climate-damaging pollution. The rule for existing plants is expected to eliminate air pollution equivalent to more than 10 million cars per year – or 70% of the nations’ passenger cars.
  • MOTOR VEHICLE EMISSIONS: Vermont has a longstanding and active role in the regulation of motor vehicle emissions, on January 5th, Attorney General Donovan joined with 11 other attorneys general to file comments opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed repeal of vehicle emission standards for “gliders.” A glider consists of an older truck engine (typically a pre-2002 diesel engine) that is paired with a new truck tractor body and sold as a new vehicle. The older engines do not meet current emission standards and emit more pollution, including NOx and greenhouse gases, than new trucks that meet the current standards. They contribute significantly to public health issues and to difficulties some states have in meeting national ambient air quality standards. Gliders have been produced in increasing numbers in recent years to exploit a loophole in the regulations that was closed with new rules under the prior federal administration. The proposed EPA rules would repeal the fix and leave the loophole open.
  • CLEAN AIR: In late December, Attorney General Donovan joined with seven other state attorneys general to file a lawsuit against the EPA to require action under the federal Clean Air Act to control air pollution that blows into Vermont from upwind states. The lawsuit seeks judicial review of the EPA’s denial of a petition to add nine states to the “Ozone Transport Region” established under the federal Clean Air Act. Vermont and the other petitioning states believe that the nine upwind states – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia – contribute significantly to violations of the federal smog standards in the Ozone Transport Region. The Attorney General remains active in defending EPA’s rules for control of greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas facilities, opposing EPA’s stay and initial steps to repeal the rules.
  • EPA BUDGET: In a December 20th letter to Congressional leadership in Washington, Attorney General Donovan joined with 12 other state attorneys general to oppose the proposed federal budget cuts to the EPA. The coalition of attorneys general argued that the significant proposed budget cuts in the House and Senate will lead to more pollution of our air, water, and communities, along with an increase in damage to public health. The letter urges Congress to pass a final budget that fully funds the EPA. This letter follows a similar letter sent to Congressional Appropriation Committees in March, also opposing proposed cuts to the EPA budget.
  • FOR CLEAN WATER: On December 13th, Attorney General Donovan joined 10 other attorneys general to file comments with the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to oppose a proposed two-year suspension of the “Clean Water Rule,” a federal regulation that defines “waters of the United States” under federal law. The Clean Water Rule is designed to ensure that the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands receive proper protection under the federal Clean Water Act. The Attorney General also has been active in defending the Clean Water Rule and opposing the proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule and the threatened rollbacks of clean water protections.
  • OZONE STANDARDS: Vermont joined with 14 other state attorneys general to file a lawsuit against the EPA on December 5th alleging that the Agency had failed to meet the Clean Air Act’s statutory deadline for designating areas of the country impacted by unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone (commonly referred to as smog). In October of 2015, the EPA revised and strengthened the national air quality standards for smog. Under the Clean Air Act, within two years of issuing the new standards, the EPA was required to designate areas of the country that are in “attainment” or “non-attainment” with the standards. In the case of the 2015 standards, the EPA was required to act by October 1, 2017. The October 1st deadline passed without the EPA making any of the required designations. When it did finally make designations, the designations did not include “non-attainment” areas, which are the designations that trigger smog reduction measures to improve air quality and comply with the standards. Non-attainment designations are important because, while Vermont is in attainment with the ozone standards, in recent years advisories that the health of sensitive individuals is at risk due to ozone pollution attributable to out-of-state sources have been issued in Vermont.
  • AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY: In a Vermont-specific action, Attorney General Donovan announced on December 20th that his Office had agreed to settle water quality claims with a Berkshire, Vermont farm. To resolve allegations that a silage leachate pond at Pleasant Valley Farms of Berkshire, LLC discharged into the nearby Godin Brook, the farm agreed to pay $14,000 in civil penalties and to not use the pipe/valve system that caused the discharge from the leachate pond. Attorney General Donovan noted the cooperation of the farm in reaching this settlement.For more information on the Attorney General’s environmental work and to keep up-to-date on the latest activities of the Office of the Attorney General, please visit the Office’s website – www.ago.vermont.gov – and find us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

Last modified: January 11, 2018