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Supreme Court Rules 6-2 On EPA Air Pollution Reductions

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 9:06 pm
by Wilberforce
5/02/2014 @ 11:06AM |198 views

Supreme Court Rules 6-2 On EPA Air Pollution Reductions Across State Lines

This week, President Obama’s environmental agenda gained a victory.

The Supreme Court revived a 2011 Environmental Protection Agency regulation, known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, limiting power-plant emissions blowing across state lines. The ruling will now require 28 states to reduce power-plant emissions, which hurt the air-quality in states located downwind.

The new regulation stands to affect approximately 1,000 power plants in the eastern half of the U.S., many of which may have to adopt new pollution controls or reduce operations. The decision could further threaten the viability of some coal plants already facing other market and regulatory pressures.

Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signaled that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming were indeed legal.

“[The] EPA’s cost-effective allocation of emission reductions among upwind States, we hold, is a permissible, workable, and equitable interpretation of the Good Neighbor provision,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the majority opinion.

In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia, along with Justice Clarence Thomas, suggested that the regulation was Marxist and unwieldy and represents a fundamental shift in power between the executive and legislative branches by ‘unelected bureaucrats.’

The 6-to-2 ruling upholds the foundation of what has become a signature of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Notwithstanding this week’s ruling, the new regulation creates a challenging threshold for the U.S. energy market to overcome.

Currently, coal produces more than 40% of the electricity used in the U.S. and provides more than 550,000 American jobs.

Ultimately, if coal is eliminated by regulations, consumers will have fewer energy choices, resulting in higher energy bills. A solid energy plan is a true “All of the Above Approach” to energy.

With at least 272 billion tons of coal in the US–a quarter of the world’s supply–coal can continue to help working families power their homes at affordable rates for generations to come.

While this is a significant victory for the administration, unanswered questions remain as to how best balance reduced emissions with access to affordable energy produced by American workers.

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Re: Supreme Court Rules 6-2 On EPA Air Pollution Reductions

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 6:42 pm
by Wilberforce
US Supreme Court decision on EPA rule will help boost N.J.'s air

May 1 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - James M. O'Neill and Scott Fallon The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

In a decision that will help improve New Jersey's air quality, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a federal rule that forces coal-burning power plants in 27 upwind states to reduce emissions that cause soot and smog.

The ruling clears the way for power plants to upgrade facilities to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide _ pollutants that blow from as far away as the Mississippi River into downwind states along the East Coast, including New Jersey.

The 6-2 decision upholding the Environmental Protection Agency's cross-state air pollution rule drew praise from environmental and public health advocates, but was a financial blow for power companies that must spend to upgrade their plants to comply with the rule.

"It's a great victory for EPA and states like New Jersey," said Craig Oren, an environmental law professor at Rutgers-Camden. "The Supreme Court has made it possible for EPA to make effective, sensible rules on out-of-state pollution. Otherwise, New Jersey would never be able to attain EPA's air quality standards.

"It's been a problem for the Northeast ever since the Clean Air Act began," he said. "States like New Jersey are unable to put together strategies to attain federal [clean air] standards because of the effects of pollution from other states."

Monica Mazurek, an air pollution expert at Rutgers University, agreed. "I see the ruling as a well-reasoned and proactive decision for better air quality in major impacted airsheds in the northeastern U.S.," she said. "It's an important recognition by the Supreme Court of the rights of states and citizens living downwind of major [pollution] sources to breathe healthier air. Ozone concentrations in New Jersey cannot be controlled unless older and less efficient coal-burning power plants in the Ohio Valley and Pennsylvania are upgraded."

Opponents of the decision said it violated the intent of the Clean Air Act, since states and the EPA are supposed to work collaboratively to reduce air pollution.

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a coalition of utilities and energy companies, said that because of Tuesday's court decision, "we are concerned that EPA may be emboldened to take actions that undermine cooperation with the states," he said. "If they do so, there could be severe consequences for electric reliability and affordability."

Segal also said the environmental benefits of the cross-state air rule are overstated, since power pant emissions "were already very well-controlled."

The EPA has estimated that complying with the new rule would cost power companies $800 million annually, but that would be far outweighed by up to $280 billion in annual health and environmental benefits.

Some power companies have already moved to start retrofitting their facilities to meet the new rule, and others have switched from coal to natural gas, which burns cleaner and whose market price has dropped.

The EPA had initially adopted the cross-state air pollution rule in 2011, but it was challenged in court by power companies and some states. A lower federal court decision in 2012 struck down the rule, saying the agency had overstepped its regulatory authority. That ruling was overturned by Tuesday's Supreme Court decision.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the majority decision for the court. "In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution," she wrote, "regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said the majority had "zero textual basis" in the Clean Air Act for justifying the EPA's rule, and mocked the analysis as "Look, Ma, no hands!"

"Today's decision feeds the uncontrolled growth of the administrative state at the expense of government by the people," Scalia wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas joined him in dissent. Samuel Alito abstained.

Governor Christie has used the legal system to force individual out-of-state power plants to reduce their air emissions, but he did not join the legal battle with other Northeast states in support of the EPA's cross-state air pollution rule, saying in 2011 that the agency had been "overreaching and stifling to job growth and business development in this country."

Still, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection praised the ruling Tuesday.

"This is a win for cleaner air and better health for the residents of New Jersey, who suffer from pollution caused by power plants from other states that dump sulfur dioxide and other pollutants on our state," said Larry Ragonese, an agency spokesman.

New Jersey has in recent years taken its own steps to reduce local particulate emissions _ the tiny particles commonly called soot. Soot can exacerbate the symptoms of lung and heart disease, increasing sick days and hospital visits, lowering worker efficiency and increasing health care costs. Bergen County alone has more than 245,000 residents who suffer from cardiovascular disease and 90,000 with asthma.

New Jersey has retrofitted NJ Transit buses, school buses and municipal garbage trucks to cut emissions. And New Jersey's coal- and oil-burning power plants have been converted to cleaner-burning natural gas or retrofitted with better emissions technology.

The state's efforts have succeeded in reducing particulate emissions and improving air quality, as a new report to be released today by the American Lung Association shows. Bergen County experienced only one high-particulate day from 2010 through 2012 _ compared with 11 from 2005 through 2007. The state also recently met federal air quality standards for particulates for the first time.

But the EPA has said that even if New Jersey could cut off all local sources of pollution, it might never meet federal clean air standards for ozone, because so much of the pollution that causes ozone _ sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide _ gets blown into the state from upwind states.

The new American Lung Association report bears that out. Bergen County experienced 17 high ozone days from 2010 through 2012, up from 13 from 2008 through 2010. The report noted that high ozone days were on the rise across the country, in part because of higher summer temperatures in 2010 and 2012. "We know that warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health," said Harold Wimmer, national president of the American Lung Association.

In that context, Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling "is a huge win for our air, our health, our economy and the quality of life of all New Jerseyans," said Sen. Bob Menendez. "While New Jersey has taken some proactive measures to reduce its own ... emissions, our residents continue to suffer at the hands of upwind polluters. By recognizing that dirty emissions don't stop at the state line, the Supreme Court's ruling will save tens of thousands of lives every year and reduce health care costs in New Jersey."

Another new rule issued by the Obama administration in March, aimed at the makeup of gasoline for cars, should also help improve New Jersey air quality when it takes effect in 2017. The rule calls for reduced sulfur content in gasoline, which will help the mechanisms in cars do a better job of capturing pollutants that lead to ozone, or smog.

"The public should continue to speak out for better air-quality controls in urban areas," said Rutgers' Mazurek. "The public is also part of the solution by doing what it can to reduce transportation emissions, reduce electrical consumption and convert wood-burning fireplaces to natural gas fireplace inserts."

source ... -N-J-s-air