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Indiana Study Says Companies Purposefully Locate in Downwind States

State laws prohibit toxic releases from factories that exceed certain levels. But an Indiana University study found that companies may be locating in places where the wind will carry their pollution across the border and thereby skirt those laws.

“When you look at the location of major sources of air pollution, they are more likely to be nearer to downwind state borders, when compared to similar industrial facilities,” said David Konisky, associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indian University Bloomington, as noted in Physics.org. 

The study compares 16,211 facilities in the United States that produce air pollution with 20,536 sites that produce hazardous waste but not air pollution, the story says. It then looks at the air pollution levels at downwind sites versus upwind places. The story says that it found that polluters are 22% less likely to locate near an upwind state than a downwind state where the air will carry the releases to other states.

“The trend is especially pronounced for large facilities that emit toxic air emissions, those that are included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory program,” the story says.

The northeastern states, for example, complain that companies locating in the Midwest and Southeast are responsible for their high pollution levels.

The Cross-state Air Pollution Rule is designed to fix that. It was enacted in July 2011 and it was to take effect in January 2012. But the D.C. Court of Appeals suspended the regulation, all based on the lawsuit brought by the states and the utilities. The court forced EPA to go back to the drawing board when it had ruled 2-to-1 in favor of the utilities in August 2012, saying that EPA overstepped its authority by requiring power companies to reduce their sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide levels at greater rates than what the law had intended.

Since then, though, the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rules involving sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. EPA finalized that rule last September.

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