Originally created 12/20/97

Northeast states, EPA reach agreement on smog from Midwest



WASHINGTON AP -- Threatened with lawsuits by New York and other Northeastern states, the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it will set up a timetable to address the problem of polluted air drifting over the region from the Midwest's coal-fired power plants.

While the accord, announced Friday by the EPA and New York Gov. George Pataki, will not mandate any reduction in power-plant emissions, officials said it was a crucial step toward cleaner air for Eastern states.

"New Yorkers can now look forward to the day when Midwestern smog no longer fouls our air," Pataki said.

The compromise between the EPA and the states -- New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Vermont -- was reached late Thursday.

Last summer the states petitioned the EPA to use a section of the 1990 Clean Air Act to force states in the Midwest and Ohio Valley to drastically reduce power-plant pollution. The eight states maintain this smog from outside their borders makes it impossible for them to reach federal air-quality standards.

According to the Ozone Transport Assessment Group, which the states set up to monitor pollution, large power plants operating in the Midwest and Southeast without modern pollution controls emit vast amounts of nitrogen oxide that drift across the Northeast.

Under the compromise, the lawsuits will likely be avoided and the agency will establish a schedule to deal with the petitions.

Sam Thernstrom, a spokesman with the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the Pataki administration believes the EPA ultimately will require polluting power plants to significantly reduce nitrogen oxide emissions early in the next decade.