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January 02, 2012
Appeals Court Blocks Cross-State Air Pollution Rule
    by Robert Kropp

Power producers argued that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) January 1 deadline gave them too little time to install required pollution control equipment.


In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two important regulations which according to the Agency could prevent as many as 46,000 premature deaths and 540,000 asthma attacks among children every year.

Issued in July and revised in October, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (C-SAP) requires that Texas and 26 states in the eastern US reduce power plant emissions that contribute to pollution in other states. According to EPA, coal-burning power plants account for 98% of sulfur dioxide and 92% of nitrogen oxide emissions affected by the regulation.

And in December, EPA issued its final Mercury and Air Toxics Rule for Power Plants, requiring power plants to install pollution control equipment that will reduce emissions of mercury in the US by 99%.

In an unfortunate development for the transition to a low-carbon economy, a three-judge panel of the US Appeals Court in Washington DC sided with the more than three dozen lawsuits challenging C-SAP, and granted a delay in the January 1 deadline for complying with the rule. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the wording of the order "suggested the judges would hear the case by April."

Luminant Generation, a Texas-based operator of coal-burning power plants, was one of the petitioners requesting a stay of the rule. In a statement, the company said it "filed motions to stay the rule because of the irreparable harm it would cause to our company and others." Luminant claimed the rule would cost the company $1.5 billion through 2020, and force it to eliminate at least 500 jobs.

While the Court allowed, at least temporarily, the continued externalization of social and environmental costs by high-emitting power producers, EPA estimated that the cost of implementation would be more than offset by the reduction of $280 billion a year in health care costs.

Vickie Patton, General Counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), said in a statement, "Today's judicial decision temporarily halts implementation of life-saving clean air protections for 240 million Americans pending full review of the facts and the law."

However, Patton continued, "Several years ago, this same court similarly halted EPA's first interstate air pollution protection program and then affirmed EPA's action after a complete review of the facts and law."

 

 
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