Supreme Court upholds cross-state air pollution rule

Wisconsin Gazette

The Supreme Court on April 29 upheld, by a 6-2 vote, the cross-state air pollution rule, described by some environmentalists as one of the most significant health standards ever adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

John Walke, director of the Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, responded: “This is great news for millions of people who suffer from serious health problems caused by the soot and smog-causing pollution from power plants in other states. Implementation of these long overdue protections will prevent thousands of premature deaths and save tens of billions of dollars a year in health costs. The EPA safeguards follow the simple principle that giant utility companies shouldn’t be allowed to dump their dirty emissions onto residents of downwind states. The Supreme Court wisely upheld this common-sense approach.”

The rule would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths each year and provide up to $280 billion in health and environmental benefits by reducing pollution that crosses state lines.

The EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule in July 2011, requiring 28 states in the East, Midwest and South to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) that cross state lines and worsen air quality in downwind states.

In August 2012, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals panel voted 2-1 to throw out the rule. But in a 44-page dissent, Judge Judith Rogers said the two-judge majority ignored the law and court precedent and instead applied their “own notions of absurdity and logic that are unsupported by a factual record.”

The Supreme Court decision sides with Rogers’ dissent and reinstates the health standards.

Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said, “The Supreme Court’s decision is welcome news to millions of Americans whose lungs are on the receiving end of badly polluted air. EPA’s 2011 power plant pollution rule is a vital public health protection that will each and every year prevent thousands of premature deaths, and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and other illnesses. People who live downwind from this deadly pollution have the right to breathe air that doesn’t sicken and kill them. After years of delay, the time is long overdue for this urgently needed safeguard to be allowed to take effect.”