Federal court won’t review decision that struck down EPA pollution rule
A federal court won’t reconsider a decision that nullified major Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut soot- and smog-forming power plant emissions that cross state lines.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the Obama administration’s request for en banc, or full court, review of an August 2012 ruling that struck down the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.
A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in August to toss out the rule, and on Thursday the court announced that a majority on a wider panel of judges voted against a full-court rehearing.
“EPA is disappointed that the Court did not grant EPA's petition for rehearing. The agency is reviewing the decision and will determine any appropriate further course of action once the review is complete,” EPA said in a statement late Thursday afternoon.
One environmentalist called the court's action a “terrible day for clean air in America.”
“It is extremely disappointing that the court declined to reconsider a terrible judicial ruling that trampled on the court’s own legal precedent and marked a major setback for clean air for many years,” said John Walke, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups that defended EPA’s rule in the litigation.
They alleged the rule would create economic burdens and force the closure of substantial numbers of coal-fired power plants.
The rule has come under attack from House and Senate Republicans, but the Senate in 2011 turned back Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) resolution to nullify it.
The 2-1 decision in August instructs EPA to continue administering a less aggressive George W. Bush-era rule called the Clean Air Interstate Rule pending the creation of a "valid replacement."
“EPA's Clean Air Interstate Rule remains in place and no immediate action from States or affected sources is expected at this time. EPA remains committed to working with States and the power sector to address pollution transport issues as required by the Clean Air Act,” EPA said Thursday.
Walke said the court's action leaves EPA in a bind.
“The original sharply divided 2-1 ruling leaves in its wake a muddle of conflicting court precedents for EPA to sort out, delaying and burdening the need to deliver clean air to tens of millions of Americans in the eastern half of the U.S.,” he said.
—This post was updated at 5:50 p.m.