New York State is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its enforcement of smog standards in nine other states, ranging from Illinois to North Carolina.

The suit alleges that air pollution from “upwind” states blows into “downwind” states like New York, contributing to dangerous ozone standard violations.

Elevated levels of smog can cause a host of significant health effects, including coughing, throat irritation, lung tissue damage, and the aggravation of existing medical conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and emphysema.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have signed onto the lawsuit with New York.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement:

“States upwind of New York that don’t take adequate responsibility for their pollution shift the cost and public health burdens of this pollution onto New Yorkers. Our coalition has waited almost three years for EPA to decide on whether it will use its legal authority to require upwind states to stem their contribution to the smog pollution. As we have waited, the health of millions of New Yorkers has continued to be threatened. Today, we are suing to force long-overdue action by EPA on this important petition.”

Long Overdue

The Empire State Building in New York City. Photo credit: Robert Paul Young/Creative Commons

Eleven northeastern states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont—and the District of Columbia are currently part of an Ozone Transport Region,” a designation that requires them to implement smog-reduction policies.

The lawsuit seeks to add Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina to the Ozone Transport Region.

New York actually submitted a petition asking EPA to add the nine states in December 2013. The Clean Air Act requires action on such a petition within 18 months, but the Agency has yet to issue a decision. As a consequence, New York filed the lawsuit, demanding EPA provide for public notice and comment on the states’ petition and to approve or disapprove the petition, after considering public comment.

A spokesperson has said the EPA will review the petition and respond.