D.C. Court Rules Against EPA in Air Pollution Case Involving Texas

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According to Fuel Fix, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has overturned an Obama EPA regulation called the "Cross-State Air Pollution Rule," stating that the EPA had exceeded its authority.

Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, according to the EPA, was an attempt to regulate emissions that create ozone and fine particles, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), that cross state lines. This rule would have the effect of sharply curtailing such emissions from power plants, especially those fueled by coal. The EPA claimed, in the enactment of the rule, that it would create $120 to $280 billion in annual health and environmental benefits in 2014 as well as preventing 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths. This outweighs the $800 million cost per year of complying with the rule as well as $1.6 billion in capital improvements.

States, including Texas, and businesses file suit

According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas, along with a number of other states and businesses, filed suit in federal court to stop the rule from taking effect. The state of Texas suggested that the rule would cost jobs and would degrade the reliability of the state's power grid by forcing certain coal fired plants to go off line. Later, the court issued a stay on the rule, which was supposed to go in effect in January 2012.

Court's opinion cites federalism as cause for overturning rule

According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the ruling in the case designated EME Homer City Generation, L.P. v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al was predicated over the federalism aspect of the Clean Air Act. According to the Court's opinion, the law states that while the EPA sets air quality standards, it is left to the states to determine how those standards are to be met. States are also required to regulate the amount of pollutants that cross state lines, a provision known as the "good neighbor" policy.

EPA exceeded its authority

The court ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority in two ways.

First it required certain states, including Texas, to reduce emissions that cross state lines by more than their significant contributions to downwind pollution. The EPA exceeded the limits as provided in the statute by imposing massive reductions in emissions.

Second, the EPA bypassed a provision in the Clean Air Act that allows the states to initiate their own reductions of cross-state emissions. The EPA imposed its own Federal Implementation Plan to comply with the rule without regard to what was set forth in the statute.

Ruling follows on the heels of another setback for the EPA and victory for Texas

The DC court's ruling follows on the heels of a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled in favor of Texas and against the EPA in a dispute concerning the state's flexible air permitting system, according to the Austin American Statesman. That ruling also cited the federalism provisions of the Clean Air Act that leaves to the states the means of complying with clean air regulations.

Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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