Federal judge Mark Abel has ruled Ohio environmental regulators have violated the federal Clean Air Act by allowing thousands of low-level polluters to go without the latest air-scrubbing technology.
In his ruling Judge Abel ordered the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to lift an exemption the agency has been giving since 2006 to emitters of 10 tons of pollution or less per year.
“We will be complying with the judge’s orders,” said Heidi Griesmer, spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA. “But we’re right now looking through the decision and figuring out how to do that,” she added.
The agency said it won’t authorize any new or expanded emissions from sources until the ramifications of the decisions are understood. Spokeswomen Griesmer said the agency has temporarily suspended issuing permits.
Small pollution emitters include dry cleaners, auto body shops and small production facilities as well as power and manufacturing plants that might be operating individual smokestacks on small-source permits, Griesmer said.
Sandy Buchanan, executive director of the Ohio Citizen Action, said the environmental advocacy group is pleased with the decision. Her group is part of an overall challenge to EPA rules created under the 2006 law, which she believes may be bolstered by it.
“All states have to get authority from the federal government to implement their clean air rules,” said Buchanan. “Frankly, Ohio has been on the verge of losing their status (as compliant) for some time now because they are doing such a bad job.”