Court Ruling Limits Maryland’s Ability to Address Cross-State Air Pollution

An August 21 Washington Times article  discusses how a recent federal appeals court ruling limits the ability of the United States Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution from power plants that crosses state lines.

A federal appeals court dealt a major blow to environmentalists and a  significant setback to the Obama  administration’s clear-air agenda Tuesday by striking down a key Environmental  Protection Agency rule limiting power-plant emissions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the  D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 that the agency’s  Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, meant to curb harmful pollutants from drifting  downwind and harming the air quality in neighboring states, went too far and  exceeded the EPA’s “statutory authority.”

In its ruling, the majority wrote that it was not passing wisdom or judgment  on the merits of the EPA’s rule, but it made  clear that it must stay within the scope of the power that Congress  gave the agency.

The ruling makes it more difficult for states that suffer from significant air pollution problems that are generated in other states, such as Maryland and New Jersey, to address the issue.  An August 21  Baltimore Sun blog article discusses the impact the court ruling could have in Maryland.

Maryland has moved aggressively to cut emissions from coal-burning power plants that officials say contribute to serious health problems such as asthma, heart attacks and premature death. But up to 70 percent of the pollution fouling the state’s air comes from upwind states, according to Robert M. Summers, Maryland secretary of the environment.  …

“The court ruling vacating EPA’s [rule] is very disappointing,” Summers said in a statement. “Maryland was among a group of states that intervened in the court case to defend the rule. The court decision deals a significant blow to our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of our air in Maryland.”

Maryland has the toughest power plant emission law on the East Coast in the Maryland Healthy Air Act, plus its Clean Cars Program adopting stricter vehicle emission standards, but could have trouble meeting its pollution reduction goals without federal intervention, Summers said.

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