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Federal appeals court rules against EPA in cross-state pollution case

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) [text, PDF] when it issued a regulation limiting power plants' emissions that cross state lines. The court ruled that the regulation, known as the Transport Rule, did not square with Congress' intention to have individual states, rather than the EPA, set emissions policies to meet federal standards. In rejecting the Transport Rule, the DC Circuit held that the EPA exceeded its authority under the CAA because the Transport Rule imposed an unfair burden on states without regard to the limits in the CAA's text and because it did not allow states to implement their own methods of reducing emissions:

EPA's Transport Rule exceeds the agency's statutory authority in two independent respects. First, the statutory text grants EPA authority to require upwind States to reduce only their own significant contributions to a downwind State's non-attainment. But under the Transport Rule, upwind States may be required to reduce emissions by more than their own significant contributions to a downwind State's non-attainment. EPA has used the good neighbor provision to impose massive emissions reduction requirements on upwind States without regard to the limits imposed by the statutory text. ... EPA's Transport Rule violates the statute. Second, the Clean Air Act affords States the initial opportunity to implement reductions required by EPA under the good neighbor provision. But here, when EPA quantified States' good neighbor obligations, it did not allow the States the initial opportunity to implement the required reductions with respect to sources within their borders.
One judge dissented, arguing that the Transport Rule was a permissible exercise of the EPA's authority under the CAA.

A DC Circuit decision last week upholding the EPA's plan to add more ethanol to gasoline [JURIST report] marked a rare victory for the EPA, which has faced several legal defeats in the past year. Last week the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the EPA overstepped its bounds when it rejected a Texas plan to issue air permits. Three weeks ago the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the EPA violated several environmental statutes when it issued regulations on coal mining in the Appalachia region. In October a federal judge similarly ruled [JURIST report] against the agency regarding its process for granting permits used by coal companies for mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. There, the court ordered that the EPA's 2009 guidelines be set aside so that all pre-2009 guidelines could be restored. In an out-of-court defeat last September the US House of Representatives [official website] passed [JURIST report] the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act 2011 [text, PDF], a bill that essentially blocks a number of proposed EPA regulations aimed at reducing emissions.

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