States sue administration over acid rain


Copyright 1984 U.P.I. March 20, 1984, Tuesday, AM cycle SECTION: Regional News DISTRIBUTION: New York LENGTH: 495 words HEADLINE: States sue administration over acid rain BYLINE: By JOSEPH MIANOWANY DATELINE: WASHINGTON BODY: Six Northeastern states sued the Reagan administration Tuesday for its failure to act on acid rain, seeking to force the Environmental Protection Agency to order pollution cuts in the industrial Midwest. New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island charged in U.S. District Court that EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus had violated his duty under the Clean Air Act to require states to reduce pollution which is harming other states. Specifically, the states are looking for smokestack industries in the Ohio Valley and Midwest to reduce their heavy sulfur dioxide emissions, believed to be the key component of the acid rain plaguing the Northeast and Canada. ''It is an Orwellian phenomenon that six states in our country must band together to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to get environmental protection,'' Maine Attorney General James Tierney told a news conference. In 1981, New York and Maine asked the EPA to order pollution cuts in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan, because they believed those emissions were the prime cause of acid rain. The EPA has not acted on the petition, and the lawsuit seeks to force a ruling within 30 days. New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, who led the legal effort, argued Tuesday there was a ''terrible unfairness'' in the situation because the Midwestern states had done little to reduce pollution, while harming the environment of the Northeast. ''There is an incredible pattern of official lawlessness,'' added Connecticut Attorney General Joseph Lieberman. The EPA has agreed it can order states to reduce pollution which violates the ambient air quality standards of other states, but has said it does not believe acid rain falls into that category. Tierney released a letter he had received from Ruckelshaus, in which the administrator said he would speed the EPA's response to the 1981 petition, but did not think he could legally grant the states' request for pollution cuts. Ruckelshaus said he did not believe the lawsuit would do much good, and felt more research needed to be done on acid rain. He conceded that ''this issue has been a most divisive one for us and for the country.'' The six states were joined in their suit by four national environmental organizations and Rep. Richard Ottinger, D-N.Y. However, officials in New Hampshire said that state refused to join the suit because they felt it had little chance of success. Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce health and environment subcommittee opened hearings Tuesday on one of the main acid rain control plans pending in Congress -- a proposal to spread the cost of a clean up among electricity customers nationwide. It differs from a plan approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which would force polluting states to shoulder the bulk of the financial burden. Prospects for both bills appear dim in this election year. GRAPHIC: PICTURE LANGUAGE: ENGLISH