Sierra Club sues EPA over haze from Louisiana coal power plants

CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press

The suit charges that EPA has failed to take the necessary steps to impose measures to cut down on haze-causing pollutants being emitted from Louisiana's coal-fired plants.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Sierra Club is suing the Environmental Protection Agency to force the regulator to make sure Louisiana's coal-powered plants cut down on haze-causing pollution, and thereby clear up the skies above wilderness areas in Louisiana and Arkansas.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the national environmental group in U.S. District Court in Washington against the federal environmental agency.

The suit charges that EPA has failed to take the necessary steps to impose measures to cut down on haze-causing pollutants being emitted from Louisiana's coal-fired plants. The suit contends the measures are mandated by the Clean Air Act.

In 2012, EPA rejected parts of a Louisiana state plan to clean up regional haze and the suit charges that the federal agency failed to come up with an alternative plan within a two-year deadline. In the meantime, the suit contends, Louisiana officials too have not developed a sufficient plan.

David Gray, an EPA spokesman, said the agency could not "respond to the details of the lawsuit." But he added that the agency understands "the importance of clean air to communities and have not lost sight of our job to help address regional haze."

The suit was filed to enforce provisions under the Clean Air Act requiring states to come up with ways to limit haze-causing pollution so "natural visibility" can be enjoyed at national parks and wilderness areas given special protection under federal law.

In this case, the Sierra Club says its members are not able to fully enjoy the Breton National Wilderness Area in south Louisiana and the Caney Creek National Wilderness Area in Arkansas due to haze. Both wildernesses are among 156 nature areas that fall under this special protection.

"Louisianans love the outdoors. It's vital that our wildlife refuges and national forests be free of pollution," said Woody Martin, the chair of the Sierra Club's Delta Chapter in Louisiana. "The EPA failed to have a plan in place to reduce the pollution that creates haze at these special places, and it's time for the agency to get the job done."

The Sierra Club says state regulators have failed to make coal-fired power plants throughout Louisiana abide by up-to-date pollution controls. The group says these plants are run by utility providers such as NRG Energy, Entergy and CLECO.

The Sierra Club is seeking to get a court order to force the EPA to develop a regional haze plan for Louisiana.

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