The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for enforcing provisions of the Clean Air Act aimed at preventing states from polluting their downwind neighbors with harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants and other industrial sources.
The agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule requires 28 states and approximately 1,000 power plants to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which are associated with higher rates of heart attacks and respiratory illnesses.
Stephanie Hogan, a 35-year-old attorney with just five years of federal experience, has played a pivotal role in defending the federal government’s interstate air pollution policies, and is providing critical legal advice as the agency seeks compliance from the states.
“In handling all of these matters, Stephanie has juggled competing demands, demonstrated keen legal skills and has been dedicated to solving problems in a sensible fashion,” said Lorie Schmidt, an EPA associate general counsel. “She takes the initiative, proactively identifies legal issues and works to craft innovative solutions. She gets things done with grace and skill, no matter how difficult the problem.”
Although one of the younger attorneys in EPA’s Office of General Counsel, Hogan contributed to the successful defense of the interstate pollution regulation before the Supreme Court, which upheld the rule in April 2014.
In that case, the EPA argued that upwind states can be significant contributors to pollution problems in downwind locations, citing places such as New Haven, Conn., where the agency said 93 percent of the ozone pollution comes from out-of-state emissions. The EPA also said the reduction in ozone and fine particles stemming from the regulations will significantly improve air quality in counties that are home to more than 75 percent of the U.S. population, and will help avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and emergency room visits each year.
After the justices sent the case back to a federal appeals court to sort out some of the regulatory details, Hogan was named head of the EPA legal team dealing with interstate pollution issues, and helped craft the successful arguments that led to the court lifting a stay that had blocked EPA enforcement efforts, freeing the EPA to tighten emission limits.
“Through Stephanie’s work, we were able to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the rule should go into effect right away so that the benefits could begin to accrue,” said Kevin Minoli, EPA’s principal deputy general counsel. “Stephanie was the core to getting that case where it needed to be.”
Although more senior colleagues are typically chosen to lead legal teams for important regulatory areas such as this, Minoli said Hogan was chosen to lead the interstate transport group because of her mastery of the subject matter and her leadership skills.
“It’s significant that we would entrust such a big national issue to someone so new in her position,” said Minoli. “She’s led people who have been practicing law many years longer than her. Her leadership and maturity are far beyond her years.”
Hogan’s colleagues said she has developed substantial expertise on interstate pollution matters, and is now working with the staff at EPA to carry out the clean air policy and deal with a range of legal matters.
Her ongoing work includes petitions requesting that EPA address pollution transported from a specific source in one state to another state as well as a 2013 petition by eight Northeastern states, led by Connecticut, calling on Midwest and Appalachian states to reduce the amount of pollutants that are carried eastward by the prevailing winds blowing across the United States.
“She is coordinating EPA’s legal response to the multitude of national and regional actions and cases that had been put on hold while the agency’s transport rule was pending before the Supreme Court,” said Schmidt. “Stephanie also is providing legal advice to the policy analysts, scientists and engineering experts in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and to EPA regional offices that are implementing the interstate transport rule.”
Hogan said she has had an interest in the environment for many years, and concentrated on environmental law while in law school. Her position at the EPA, she said, has given her legal responsibilities to help make an important national program as effective as possible.
“I get to help make a difference,” said Hogan. “My work has a direct impact to benefit public health and the environment.”