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Supreme Court Asked To Hear Cross-State Air Pollution Case

Environment agency seeks Supreme Court review of interstate pollution rule

by Glenn Hess
April 4, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 14

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court decision striking down an interstate air pollution rule.

The rule was issued in 2011 under the “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act, which is intended to ensure that the emissions from one state’s power plants do not cause harmful pollution levels in neighboring states.

The measure would impose caps on emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from coal-fired power plants across 28 states, mostly in the eastern U.S. Those emissions, and the resulting soot and smog, drift across the borders of downwind states.

But last August, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit threw out EPA’s rule. The appeals court concluded that the regulatory scheme violated the Clean Air Act because it could require a state to reduce its emissions by an amount actually greater than its contribution to another state’s air pollution.

Now EPA, along with a coalition of health and environmental organizations, has petitioned the high court to examine the dismissal. The agency asserts that the appellate court’s ruling will “seriously impede EPA’s ability to deal with a grave public health concern.”

In its petition, EPA urged the justices to overturn the lower court finding, saying that it could delay “by years” the ability of downwind states to comply with federal air quality standards.


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