Ruling Vacates Clean Air Interstate Rule

Guest Blog | July 11, 2008 | Press Releases

Asheville, NC – Southern Alliance for Clean Energy responded today to the DC Circuit Court ruling that completely vacated EPA’s 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), saying the decision creates enormous questions about the future of clean air and the progress that has been made over the last decade to clean up dirty coal-fired power plants.

The controversy involves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called “Clean Air Interstate Rule,” issued by the Agency in 2005, and struck down today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. See:

“The DC Circuit Court decision potentially bodes poorly for public health,” stated Stephen Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Literally thousands of people across the Southeast could die prematurely from air pollution unless the government takes swift and decisive action to clean up power plants emissions.”

The court ruling came in response to a coalition of electric power companies led by Duke Energy who filed suit against the CAIR rule. The state of North Carolina had also challenged the rule, stating that CAIR was not strong enough to protect the state’s own air quality. Due to these conflicting challenges, the court’s ruling is mixed in support of all parties, yet the utility companies involvement in the lawsuit reinforces their continued efforts to roadblock clean air.

“Duke Energy’s rhetoric doesn’t match their action,” stated Smith. “While they say they support clean air and clean power plants, they are the lead utility opposing rules that would provide the necessary reductions to protect public health and the environment. It’s high time they take full responsibility for their pollution and stop getting in the way of clean air.”

The rule was a political compromise aimed at reducing electric power plant emissions of soot and smog-forming sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by about 70% in the Eastern U.S. by 2015. According to EPA’s own analysis, the pollution reductions would prevent 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, 18,000 in 2015, and 22,000 premature deaths in 2020.

“This decision will leave citizens across the region needlessly exposed to dirty air from coal-burning electric power,” stated Ulla Reeves, Regional Program Director for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “It will mean an increase in rates of death and disease that could have been avoided.”

Meanwhile, many utilities have already initiated programs to clean up their facilities and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) notes that the most cost effective path forward to clean air is for those utilities to stay the course on cleaning up their power plants as planned.

SACE calls on the Bush administration and the United States Congress to seek an “urgent fix” to this unfortunate turn of events.

“Congress should step in and protect the breathing public by urgently working to pass comprehensive, multi-pollutant legislation,” stated Jennifer Rennicks, Federal Policy Director for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. There are currently multiple bills in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support that would sharply reduce coal-fired power plant emissions.

EPA could also get to work immediately on reissuing a rule that complies with the Clean Air Act, in order to lock in critical health protections for millions of Americans. States across the Southeast were counting on the EPA rules to help it comply with health-based clean air standards. Today’s decision will hinder states’ abilities to meet air quality attainment goals.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast.

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