Divided D.C. Appeals Court Blocks Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

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An important clean air protection was threatened yesterday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.  The rule would have required 28 states in the Eastern US to sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution.  These chemicals form soot and smog (particulate pollution and ozone) that can drift hundreds of miles from their source, often giant coal fired power plants such as Luminant’s aging trio of North Texas coal plants, Martin Lake, Big Brown and Monticello.  Pollution from these plants can drift as far as Illinois.

Because these pollutants drift from one state into others, the federal government has a vested interest in protecting the citizens of states that are downwind from these plants.  The rule would have reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by 73% and nitrogen oxide pollution by 54%.  

According to the EPA, these reductions would have enormous benefits:

  • Saving up to 34,000 lives each year
  • Preventing 15,000 heart attacks each year
  • Preventing 400,000 asthma attacks each year
  • Preventing 1.8 million days when people miss work or school
  • Providing $120 billion to $280 billion in health benefits for the nation each year

Senator Tom Carper of Delware explains the impact of the ruling:

 I’m very disappointed in the court’s decision to vacate the Environment Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.  The Cross-State Air Pollution rule – or “Good Neighbor” rule -was crucial for the health of citizens like those in Delaware, who live in a state that has cleaned up its harmful air pollution, but still are forced to live with their neighbor’s dirty air.  This is the second time the courts have thrown out the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to deal with interstate air pollution. I encourage the Administration to appeal the decision.  In the meantime, as Chairman of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee in the Senate, I will be working with this Administration, the impacted states and my colleagues to ensure we find a swift solution to ensure all states do their fair share to clean up our air if that appeal is not successful.

Bill Hammond, President of the Texas Association of Business, applauded the decision, “today's court ruling against the EPA's overreaching cross-state air pollution rule will save jobs in Texas and keep the lights on.  Had this rule been allowed to go into effect it could have cost hundreds of coal miners and power plant workers their jobs and devastated the local economies of a number of Texas communities.”

While it is probably true that the rule would have shuttered coal power plants in Texas, Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, believes that is a good and necessary thing.  

Americans have been waiting for the clean air they deserve for decades and the court's ruling today further delays the Clean Air Act's promise of safe, breathable air for our children.  The EPA's long overdue and much-needed rule would have helped communities clean up their air and save lives by curbing millions of tons of air pollution that travel downwind and across state lines each year.

The EPA must now use the earlier CAIR rule for the foreseeable future.


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