The state of Texas was back in court last week, arguing for its right to pollute other states’ air.
The latest round in the state’s fight with the Environmental Protection Agency will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, often considered the nation’s most influential after the Supreme Court.
In the case, industry groups and 14 states, led by Texas, are challenging 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, for one, fears some utilities will shutter plants to comply with the rule, threatening the state’s ability to “keep the lights on.”
The EPA says 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 a classic instance of why air pollution cleanup cannot be left solely to the states,” said Frank O’Donnell, head of the environmental group Clean Air Watch.
The oral arguments come nearly four months after a three-judge panel put the rule on hold while the federal appeals court considers its legality.
In arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., Friday, a coalition of states, including New York, urged the court to uphold the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that will limit the interstate transport of air pollution that harms New Yorkers’ environment and health. The rule prohibits emissions in one state from significantly contributing to a downwind state’s inability to meet federal air quality standards established to protect public health for two harmful pollutants: fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5 and ozone. In addition to New York, the state coalition supporting the rule includes Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Vermont. The states are joined by New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, the District of Columbia, Baltimore, and Bridgeport, CT.
By 2014, the rule is expected to reduce emissions that contribute to smog, asthma and acid rain by millions of tons per year, resulting in up to 2,000 fewer premature deaths each year in New York alone.
“For too long, New York and other states have been harmed by upwind smokestack pollution. It is critical that strong rules protecting the air we breathe are both upheld and enforced,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “The transport of this kind of air pollution into our state makes it exceedingly difficult for New York to meet federal air quality standards intended to protect public health, resulting in undue hardship for people suffering from asthma and other health conditions. My office stands ready and willing to fight for our ability to maintain healthy air with the reasonable assurance that our efforts won’t be undercut by out-of-state polluters.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an Attorney General like that? Some day, I hope. Anyway, it’ll probably be a few months before we get a ruling on this, then whatever gets decided will be appealed to the Supreme Court, which means it’ll likely be at least 2013 before we have an answer. Try not to breathe any more than necessary until then.