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Environmental brief ~ Judge orders EPA to disclose mercury rule documents

[JURIST] Leading Friday's environmental law news, Magistrate Judge Robert Collings of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website] has ruled [PDF opinion] that the US Environmental Protection Agency [official website] must release internal documents relating to the Clean Air Mercury Rule [EPA backgrounder]. The rule, which has proposed a cap-and-trade emissions program for coal-fired power plants, has been controversial since it was first announced. Critics maintain the trading program violates the Clean Air Act [text], and 11 states have initiated lawsuits to stop the program. The ruling orders the EPA to disclose documents the agency had claimed were protected by the deliberative process and attorney-client privileges. The Boston Globe has more.

In other environmental law news...

  • Synergics Inc., a Maryland-based wind-energy company, has filed a petition with the Maryland Public Service Commission [official website], which regulates public utilities in the state, asking it to reopen the public record in its consideration of the company's plan to build a 40 megawatt windfarm in Western Maryland. The company has proposed placing 17 turbines along 3 miles of the Backbone Mountain ridge, the highest range in the state. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources [official website] has recommended that the company be barred from building access roads or turbines in large parts of the work site, claiming it would likely destroy habitat for the state-endangered mourning warbler, Allegheny wood rat, timber rattlesnake, and 14 other animal and plant species. Synergics argues the Maryland DNR recommendations are overly broad. AP has more.

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency [official website] is seeking public comments on a proposed rule [PDF text] that would establish the criteria and procedures used to determine if an "exceptional event" has occurred which could alter the monitoring data being used to comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards [EPA backgrounder] in accordance with the Clean Air Act [text]. Exceptional events are unusual or naturally occurring events that may affect air quality but are beyond a state's reasonable control. Comments can be submitted here, by searching for the document ID (EPA-HQ-OAR-2005-0159), until May 10, 2006.

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