The East Coast states, including New York and Connecticut, have for more than 15 years been subject to stricter air standard requirements than many other parts of the country.
Their governors have long criticized Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan, among others, for their more lenient rules on pollution from coal-fired power plants, factories and tailpipes allowing those economies to profit from cheap energy while their belched soot and smog are carried on the prevailing winds that blow across the U.S.
All the governors on the petition are Democrats. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has not signed it. The petition comes the day before the Supreme Court is to hear arguments to determine the fate of a related EPA regulation known as the good neighbor rule.
The regulation, officially called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, would force states with coal pollution that wafts across state lines to rein in soot and smog, either by installing costly pollution control technology or by shutting the power plants. Even if the regulation is upheld, the Eastern governors are seeking stronger constraints on pollution from the Midwest and Rust Belt states.
The Obama administration issued the good neighbor rule, which would apply chiefly to power plants in 27 states east of Nebraska, half of the country, in 2011. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck it down, ruling that the EPA had not followed the Clean Air Act when it calculated how to assign responsibility for cross-state air pollution.
The rule is part of President Barack Obamas growing effort to use EPA regulations to crack down on coal pollution.
Like the petition from the Northeastern governors, the court case reflects the growing anger of East Coast officials against the Appalachian states that mine coal and the Rust Belt states that burn it to fuel their power plants and factories. Coal emissions are the chief cause of global warming and are linked to many health risks, including asthma and lung disease.
Judging by history, environmental advocates said the governors petition had a good chance of success. In 2000, for example, the EPA granted petitions from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania to require 12 states, including Ohio and Indiana, to control nitrogen emissions from nearly 400 large coal- and gas-fired power plants.
The EPA estimates that the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 1.8 million sick days a year.
The EPA also estimates that the rule would cost businesses $800 million annually because of the expense of installing smokestack scrubber technology and shutting the dirtiest coal plants.