Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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Professor Sillman participated in legal brief for EPA case

Posted: May 1, 2014

Professor Sillman participated in legal brief for EPA case

Research Professor Sanford Sillman was one of 12 co-signers on a legal brief from scientists to the U.S. Supreme Court for the EPA v. EME Homer City Generation LLP case, which led to the Supreme Court upholding an EPA rule on interstate air pollution.

Sillman was interested in being involved with the case because he began his career working on long distance transport of ozone. His research was part of a large body of research results that lead to the implementation of controls intended to reduce ozone. They were effective. Ozone across the eastern U.S. decreased substantially through the 2000s after controls were implemented.

“This [case] may represent the last challenge to it - so it is a kind of a nice ‘ending’,” Sillman wrote in an e-mail.

The case challenged the EPA’s Transport Rule, which sets emission reduction obligations for power plants in upwind states that "contribute significantly" to downwind states' nonattainment of EPA air quality standards.

Supporters of power companies and coal companies argued the rule was too intrusive and would force an unnecessary amount of clean up. These parties won a victory in August 2012 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the rule exceeded EPA's authority.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the D.C. Circuit’s decision. The SCOTUS blog states, “The Clean Air Act directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for pollutants at levels that will protect public health. Once EPA settles on a NAAQS, the Agency must designate ‘nonattainment’ areas, i.e., locations where the concentration of a regulated pollutant exceeds the NAAQS, and each state must submit a State Implementation Plan, or SIP, to EPA within three years of any new or revised NAAQS.”

Sillman joined AOSS more than 20 years ago after earning his PhD in applied physics from Harvard University. Professor Perry Samson recruited him and encouraged his research.

Samson says Sillman’s greatest career accomplishment is “his identification of indicator species to help air quality planners understand what control strategies are most effective.”

The court case was covered in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Environmental Protection.

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