Federal appeals court overturns Cross-State Air Pollution regulation

A federal appeals court overturned an Obama administration rule today that requires aging power plants to sharply reduce emissions that cause smog and soot in neighboring states.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision that the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority with the new regulation. (More coverage: Texas attorney general hails the ruling.)

Led by Texas, 14 states and several power companies challenged the legality of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which imposes caps on nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants in eastern states. Texas officials fear some utilities will shutter plants to comply with the rule, threatening the state’s ability to “keep the lights on.”

The EPA has said the rule is necessary to reduce lung-damaging pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths and respiratory illnesses each year around the power plants and in downwind states.

“This is clearly a big blow for breathers in downwind states,” said Frank O’Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “The good neighbor rule is a critical component in the EPA’s strategy to ensure healthful air quality.”

The EPA issued the regulation last year in response to the federal appeals court, which told the regulator to fix the “fundamental flaws” of an earlier version by the Bush administration.

The court ordered the agency to enforce the 2005 regulation, known as the Clear Air Interstate Rule, until a viable replacement to the Obama administration’s rule is made.


Real-Time Smog Levels

Check the map now: A searchable computerized map allows users to identify ozone, or smog, levels at specific addresses.

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