Court Delays EPA’s Latest Smog Rule

The State Journal
3 January 2012
By Pam Kasey

A federal court suspended the Environmental Protection Agency's rule to reduce power-plant pollution the crosses state lines on Dec. 30, two days before its Jan. 1 implementation date.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stayed the rule while legal challenges to the rule are under way.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, finalized in July, would require about 1,000 power plants in 27 states to cut smog-forming emissions that drift into downwind states and can, according to the EPA, contribute to respiratory illnesses and heart attacks.

A cost-benefit analysis of the rule conducted by the agency and affirmed by a Harvard University / MIT review shows compliance cost of $2.4 billion and year and benefits of, at minimum, $120 billion a year, mainly through 13,000 or more premature deaths avoided annually.

But some states and companies sued over the rule, arguing that its 2012 and 2014 compliance timelines were too short and that it would lead to unnecessarily high electric rates.

The rule is one of several that led American Electric Power to announce in June that it would likely shut down a number of coal-fired plants, including, in West Virginia, Appalachian Power's Kanawha River and Philip Sporn and Ohio Power's Kammer generating stations.

FirstEnergy had not yet announced its plans as of December 2011.

AEP's plant closures were scheduled for the end of 2014, and the court delay causes no changes in Appalachian Power's current plans, according to spokeswoman Jeri Matheney.

"As of now the plan is the same as we publicized back in June," Matheney said.

The challenge to the rule is part of a larger pushback against the Obama EPA.

Pressed by industry, the administration forced the agency over the summer to delay a tightening of smog-forming emissions rules. The agency also delayed the implementation of a greenhouse gas emissions rule.

An air toxics rule the agency issued in December will require reductions in emissions primarily from coal-fired power plants. That rule has been the subject of proposed legislation and may yet be challenged.

The EPA told the Wall Street Journal that it believes the rule will be upheld.