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Alaska sues EPA for exemption from air pollution emissions regulation

Suzanna CaldwellAlaska Dispatch News

The Department of Law on Friday filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency, hoping to block the agency from extending the North American Emissions Control Area to Alaska.

In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court, the state asks to be exempted from the regulations put in place to reduce air pollution from ships traveling within 200 miles of Alaska's shoreline.

The EPA, Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security are set to begin jointly enforcing the control area starting Aug. 1.

The state says the regulations will require marine cargo carriers and cruise liners to use costly and difficult to obtain low-sulfur fuel. The increase will mean increased shipping costs to Alaska and possible negative effects on the state's tourism industry.

"Alaska relies heavily on maritime traffic, both for goods shipped to and from the state, and for the cruise ship passengers who support thousands of Alaskan jobs," Attorney General Michael Geraghty was quoted as saying in a press release. "There are reasonable and equally effective alternatives for the secretary and the EPA to consider which would still protect the environment but dramatically reduce the severe impact these regulations will have on Alaskan jobs and families."

The suit maintains that the decision to include Alaska coastlines in the enforcement area was based on flawed or incomplete data.

In the suit, the state notes that the EPA admitted it failed to perform the air quality modeling in Alaska that it performed in other areas. For that reason and others, the state believes the EPA has neither the scientific basis, nor legal authority, to extend the emissions control area to Alaska, according to the press release.

In 2010 Alaska joined several other states and trade groups in opposing the EPA in expanding greenhouse gas emission regulations.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Columbia Circuit ruled unanimously that the EPA had lawfully determined that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com

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