Looser Emission Rules Rejected
Court Says Changes By EPA Violated Clean Air Act
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 18, 2006; A01
A federal appeals court blocked the Bush administration's four-year effort to loosen emission rules for aging coal-fired power plants, unanimously ruling yesterday that the changes violated the Clean Air Act and that only Congress could authorize such revisions.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with officials from 14 states, including New York, California and Maryland, who contended that the rule changes -- allowing older power plants, refineries and factories to upgrade their facilities without having to install the most advanced pollution controls -- were illegal and could increase the amount of health-threatening pollution in the atmosphere.
The Environmental Protection Agency's New Source Review policy was formally issued in 2003 but has never taken effect because of legal challenges by state officials and environmental groups. The administration has long argued that the existing standards are too stringent and have discouraged utility plants and other industries from upgrading and expanding their facilities. But opponents have characterized the rule changes as a favor to administration allies in the utility and coal-producing industries that would greatly add to public health problems.
New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer, who led the court fight to block the administration's New Source Review policy, called yesterday's ruling "a major victory for clean air and public health" and a "rejection of a flawed policy."
"It will encourage industry to build new and cleaner facilities, instead of prolonging the life of old, dirty plants," Spitzer said.
In a statement, EPA spokesman John Millet said: "We are disappointed that the Court did not find in favor of the United States. We are reviewing and analyzing the opinion and cannot comment further at this time."