Score one for the polluters.
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.
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.”
See here and here for some background. The Environmental Defense Fund has a press release and anlysis of the ruling, which you can read here. Unlike the flex permits ruling, this one is a genuine setback, though though it should be noted that the court didn’t say the EPA had no authority, just that it needed to write the rules differently. While the usual pollution-enabling gang celebrates, the former head of the EPA in Texas notes that the industries who helped fight this may come to regret it.
Al Armendariz, who was the regional administrator of the EPA when the cross-state rule was finalized and now works as a senior representative from the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Texas, said:
“The ruling, I think, only delays the inevitable, which is that there is going to be a transport rule that requires utilities to significantly reduce their emissions. And ironically, the judgment is critical of steps the agency took which were designed to make the rule cost-effective. And if anything, the judgment could result in EPA putting a rule forward about a year from now that requires utilities to spend more to reduce emissions than if the cross-state rule had gone into effect. So the delay is unfortunate, but ironically, I think the court’s criticism of some of the steps the [EPA] took to try to make the rule cost-effective might result in the agency moving forward with a rule that costs more to comply than the cross-state rule would have.”
Of course, that assumes an EPA that’s not been taken over by industry hacks by that time. We’re all clear on what needs to be done to prevent that, right? Texas Vox has more.