Wild Equity Institute Sues EPA for Failing to Curb PG&E Pollution in Antioch

For Immediate Release, March 26, 2014

Contact:  Laura Horton, lhorton@wildequity.org, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 235-0492

Wild Equity Institute Sues EPA for Failing to Curb PG&E Pollution in Antioch

San Francisco, Calif.— The Wild Equity Institute today filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) for failing to address the impacts of PG&E’s power plant pollution on community health and one of North America’s most imperiled species: the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, which is found only at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.

“PG&E needs to play by the same rules as everyone else,” said Laura Horton, Staff Attorney at Wild Equity Institute. “Other power plants have already taken measures to do right by communities and our imperiled wildlife, and EPA cannot let PG&E off the hook just because the utility is the biggest player on the block.”

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Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly photo © Liam O’Brien, http://sfbutterfly.com

EPA’s legal violation involves Title V of the Clean Air Act. Title V is a permit process that applies to “major sources” of pollution such as PG&E’s Gateway Generating Station, and results in a permit that incorporates “all applicable” air pollution control requirements in a single set of documents.

A proposed Title V permit for Gateway was released last year, and shockingly it failed to include air pollution control requirements to protect endangered species and the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, even though another power plant a few miles down the road agreed to mitigate its pollution this past year.

Wild Equity demonstrated this failure to both EPA and the local permitting agency, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, through a formal legal petition process established by the Clean Air Act. The petition process requires EPA to respond to the petition within 60 days. However, the EPA has failed to respond to this petition at all—and in the interim, the proposed permit became final, without any provisions in place to protect the Lange’s metalmark butterfly.

There are only a few dozen Lange’s metalmark butterflies remaining in the world. The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that nitrogen pollution from power plants near the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is “virtually certain” to cause the species to go extinct, and earlier this year independently demanded that the EPA and PG&E consult with experts and mitigate Gateway Generating Station’s pollution.

Background on the Gateway Generating Station and the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly.

Gateway Generating Station is a large, natural-gas-fired power plant in Antioch, California that pollutes nearby communities, worsens the global climate crisis, and threatens the survival of the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly.

Wild Equity has for years been informing the EPA and PG&E that they must work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to assess the impacts of Gateway’s nitrogen emissions on the butterfly, as required under the Endangered Species Act. However, to date the EPA and PG&E have not fulfilled this legal duty.

The Lange’s metalmark butterfly is a brightly colored, fragile and highly endangered butterfly that has been protected by the federal Endangered Species Act since 1976. The species is endemic to the Antioch Dunes in Contra Costa County, a relict desert landscape left behind as California’s prehistoric deserts retreated from the Bay Area 140,000 years ago. Because of the Antioch Dunes’ isolation, many species found in the dunes are unique and very rare.

Sand dunes like the Antioch Dunes are nitrogen deficient, and increased amounts of airborne nitrogen emitted from Gateway changes the chemical composition of the dunes, creating soil conditions that are only suitable for the growth of invasive weeds. Under these polluted conditions, the butterfly’s host plant is lost to the invasive weeds, resulting in a population decline for the butterfly. Gateway’s emissions also harm local communities by contributing more ozone pollution and soot to an area already disproportionately overwhelmed by power plant pollution.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.



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