Friday, July 11, 2008

Court Strikes Down Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR)

A federal appeals court, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, unanimously struck down (7/11/08) the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule, which required 28 states east of the Mississippi to reduce smog-forming (nitrogen oxides) and soot-and acid rain producing (sulfur dioxide) emissions that can travel long distances in the wind. Electric power producers (led by Duke Energy) challenged the regulation on the grounds that the EPA usurped the authority of Congress by requiring greater pollution reductions than those called for in the 1990 Clean Air Act. We knew this would happen just as we knew it would happen with the Clearn Air Mercury Rule (see link below). The Bush administration could get neither program passed in Congress so they implemented the rules at the agency level anyway. These were lawsuits waiting to happen.

We take no comfort in our foresight though because now no rule exists for managing these emissions and Congress must pass legislation to protect our air. Politics harmed America's air in this cycle because the Democrats opposed the Republican Clear Skies Initiative (CSI), which would have properly codified the rules, and the CSI is modeled after the same cap-and-trade mechanism being promoted by both sides today to address global warming.

The EPA said the rule would dramatically reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, saving up to $100 billion in health benefits. The Environmental Protection Agency predicted it would prevent about 17,000 premature deaths a year by 2015. Besides the reduction in premature deaths, the EPA also said the rule would have prevented millions of lost work and school days and tens of thousands of nonfatal heart attacks.

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