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EPA proposes new rule to combat air pollution

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] on Tuesday announced a proposed rule [text, PDF; materials] that will reduce air pollution [JURIST news archive] transported across state lines and bring delinquent areas into compliance with federal and state air quality requirements. The Transport Rule targets power plants specifically as a cost-effective way to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions—gases that react to form pollution and smog. The EPA is focusing on reducing these emissions in 31 states, mainly located in the eastern part of the country, and anticipates this approach will reduce interstate transport of air pollution in compliance with the Clean Air Act [materials; JURIST news archive]. The agency estimates the rule could provide more than $120 billion in health care benefits by 2014 and avoid thousands of cases of premature deaths, heart attacks, aggravated asthma and acute bronchitis. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that the Transport Rule is meant to be preemptive:

This rule is designed to cut pollution that spreads hundreds of miles and has enormous negative impacts on millions of Americans. We're working to limit pollution at its source, rather than waiting for it to move across the country. The reductions we're proposing will save billions in health costs, help increase American educational and economic productivity and -- most importantly -- save lives.
The EPA estimates the proposed rule will have a minimal impact on the cost of electricity and will reduce emissions by more than 50 percent of the 2005 levels. The Transport Rule will replace the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) [materials; JURIST report], which the EPA was directed to replace [JURIST report] in 2008. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) [official website] concluded that the new rule will produce cleaner air [press release], but found it to be "complicated and open to further lawsuits." He called on Congress to pass legislation to address clean air issues.

The CAIR was rejected by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] in 2008. The court found the rule's proposal to permanently cap emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides to be "fundamentally flawed." The EPA's announcement comes just weeks after the Senate defeated a resolution [JURIST report] to limit the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Supporters of the resolution contended that Congress should have the power to regulate emissions and that EPA regulations could potentially harm the economy.

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