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Federal Court Throws Out New EPA Rules on Coal-Plant Emissions for Eastern States

A federal court struck down emissions limits that the EPA was trying to impose on the coal industry in 28 eastern states, sending it back for revision.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule limiting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in 28 states, mostly in the eastern U.S., has been overturned by a federal court and sent back for revision.

The rule was aimed at dropping coal plants’ sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen oxide by 54 percent, down from 2005 levels, to reduce pollution in states downwind of the plants, according to Reuters. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit told the EPA to revise it, saying that the agency had overstepped its legal bounds in imposing such sweeping regulations, Reuters reported. The EPA’s existing Clean Air Interstate Rule will continue to be the standard while details of the new one, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), are worked out, Reuters said.

CSAPR applied to states mostly in the eastern half of the U.S., plus Texas, but was levied with the idea that the air pollutants, which cause acid rain and smog, cross state lines. Several entities had challenged the new rule, among them Southern Co. and Energy Future Holdings Corp., which claimed that the January 1, 2013, effective date did not provide enough time for them to the special equipment required for compliance, Reuters said.

This is not the first time the EPA has come under fire for issuing rules that allegedly supersede its legal boundaries. Its 2011 revocation of Arch Coal’s permits for the Spruce No. 1 mountaintop mining operation in Virginia caused ire throughout the industry. Last October a federal judge overruled that the agency’s review of waste-disposal permits for several mountaintop-mining operations in Kentucky and West Virginia, according to an Associated Press report, saying that the agency had overreached its authority in initiating the permit reviews.

Although the clean-air regulations the EPA was trying to implement were not directly aimed at Indian country, the health effects of such emissions, especially on the Navajo Nation, are well documented. Read more on coal-plant emissions, clean air and the EPA below.

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