U.S. Supreme Court upholds EPA Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

In a 6 to 2 vote the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to revive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR)

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 6 to 2 vote has ruled to revive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR). CSPAR requires states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states, according to the EPA.

The EPA finalized CSAPR  in July 2011, which would require more than two dozen states to significantly reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) from close to 1,000 power plants. Under CSAPR a cap-and-trade system for emissions permits would be implemented, while plants falling short of the new standards would be required to install pollution control upgrades within a three year deadline.

In response several states and utilities filed suit against the EPA challenging the legality of CSAPR on the basis that it imposed an undue financial burden while simultaneously destabilizing the electrical grid through the loss of older, primarily coal-fired power plants.

In an August 2012 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned CSAPR determining the EPA had exceeded its legal authority under the Clean Air Act. However, Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision reverses the 2012 ruling of the lower district court deeming EPA’s CSPAR reasonable.

The debate over the rule has involved vehement arguments on all sides, with the EPA and environmental groups touting huge potential health savings and many energy companies and industry supporters insisting the costs of implementing new regulations could prove economically catastrophic.

In keeping with this trend, Tuesday’s decision has elicited strong reactions from all sides.The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which was a party to the case, is touting the Supreme Court’s ruling as an environmental victory.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision means that millions of Americans can breathe easier” said Fred Krupp, president for EDF. “Power plant pollution creates serious health risks for millions of Americans, especially children and the elderly. The Supreme Court’s decision means that our nation can take the necessary steps to ensure healthier and longer lives for the 240 million Americans at risk from power plant smokestack pollution near and far.”

However coal advocacy group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), blasted the decision calling it another example of overreaching regulation offering little benefits.

“With the Supreme Court’s ruling today, we are profoundly concerned about the costs and reliability impacts of rules like CSAPR and the absence of oversight in identifying and addressing such concerns,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president of communications for ACCCE. “While CSAPR is just one example of President Obama’s climate crusade, EPA’s forthcoming carbon rule on existing generating units promises to be the most flagrant and costly abuse of the Clean Air Act to date.”

Read the Supreme Court CSAPR Decision here: EME Homer City Generation v. EPA

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