Court Decision Strikes Down EPA Anti-Pollution Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which was intended to reduce emissions from power plants that cause smog and soot pollution that cross state lines.

The divided court ruling could affect as many as 240 million Americans, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“I’m incredibly disappointed by the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling which will protect out-of-state polluters at the expense of New Jersey residents’ health,” said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ.) “New Jersey has spent billions of dollars to make its power sector among the cleanest in the country while some upwind states have allowed old, dirty coal plants to foul New Jersey’s air for decades. It is more important than ever for the state and the EPA to use existing authority to crack down on polluters.”

In the opinion issued today, two judges on a three-judge panel rejected and vacated EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This safeguard was finalized in last July and required 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.

“The EPA can – and should – immediately appeal this decision. The dissenting judge correctly follows the Clean Air Act and prior rulings by this court. The majority opinion is an outlier at odds with the court’s own rulings as well as the Clean Air Act,” said John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

It is estimated by EPA that the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule could save up to 34,000 lives, and prevent 15,000 heart attacks, 400,000 asthma attacks and hundreds of thousands of cases of other respiratory ailments every year. In 2014, the rule was estimated to result in up to $280 billion in annual benefits. In New Jersey alone, the rule could save approximately 1,200 lives annually.

Texas and several other parties challenged the legality of the rule in court, and a number of Eastern states moved to intervene in the case on behalf of EPA. U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) called on Gov. Chris Christie to join the suit in support of the rule, but the governor did not act.

“The DC District Court of Appeals has sided with dirty coal over clean air. They have sold out clean air for people of New Jersey and the United States by siding with polluters and the coal industry,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club. “Christie Administration also sided with Big Coal earlier this year by failing to join this lawsuit with other northeastern states for cleaner air in New Jersey.”

EPA data found New Jersey is home to some of the top 20 smoggiest areas in the country. Monmouth and Ocean County is ranked 15th, Middlesex and Somerset is ranked 17th, Trenton ranked 20th, and Camden which is part of the Philadelphia area is ranked 8th. Even areas where there are not a lot of smokestacks, like Monmouth and Ocean counties, still have bad air quality due to cross-state pollution.

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