(CN) - An environmentalist's concerns about visibility in a wilderness area that she has never visited do not give her group standing to challenge Nevada's clean-air plan, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday.
WildEarth Guardians claimed in a petition for review that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had improperly approved Nevada's plan to cut regional haze in 2012.
In challenging the State Implementation Plan (SIP), the group relied heavily on the testimony of Veronica Egan, a WildEarth member in Colorado. Egan said that she regularly visits Nevada, and when there sees increased pollution from power plants. She allegedly worries about those plants' health effects and decreased visibility in regional national parks and wilderness areas.
Specifically, Wildearth and Egan challenged the EPA's approval of the state's progress goals for improving visibility in the Jarbridge Wilderness Area in northeastern Nevada.
Wildearth and Egan also objected to the EPA's approval of sulfur dioxide levels for the coal-fired Reid Gardner Generating Station in southern Nevada. The state's plan, according to the complaint, authorizes an increase in emissions that will further decrease visibility in Zion National Park in Utah and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, both of which Egan visits annually.
Finding that WildEarth and Egan lack standing to challenge the plan, the 9th Circuit said Thursday that Egan "has never visited the Jarbridge Wilderness Area, nor does she have any plans to travel there in the future."
"More significantly, WildEarth fails to demonstrate that the EPA's approval of Nevada's worst days reasonable progress goals has any causal connection to Egan's claimed injuries," Judge Milan Smith wrote for the three-judge appellate panel.
The San Francisco-based court also rejected Egan's claim that she had standing because she can see air pollution in Colorado from Nevada's coal-fired North Valmy Generating Station in north-central Nevada.
"Even assuming, without deciding, that Egan's concerns about emissions from North Valmy establish an injury in fact, WildEarth fails to satisfy the traceability and redressability requirements," Smith wrote. "Egan contends that viewing emissions from North Valmy is aesthetically displeasing, and that it leads her to worry about future health consequences. But Egan fails to show that either her aesthetic displeasure or her health concerns are causally linked to the EPA's approval of Nevada's worst days reasonable progress goals for visibility at the Jarbridge Wilderness Area."
While finding that Egan and WildEarth do have standing to challenge the emissions plan for Reid Gardner based on visibility at regional national parks, the panel concluded that the plaintiffs had failed to show the state's clean-air plan will increase pollution from that plant.
"Particularly when reviewed under this deferential standard, the EPA's decision to approve Nevada's ... determination for Reid Gardner was not arbitrary and capricious," Smith wrote.