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Federal Court Rules in Favor of Clean Air

A federal appeals court on Friday ruled in favor of a coalition of states and environmental groups that were challenging a Bush administration regulation designed to permit factories, refineries and power plants nationwide to avoid installing new pollution controls to help offset increased emissions from equipment repairs and replacements.

A Legal Victory for the Clean Air Act
In overturning the regulation, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the Environmental Protection Agency went too far when it issued the regulation exempting most equipment changes from environmental reviews, even if they led to higher emissions.

The New York Times reported that the three-judge panel’s unanimous written decision gave a literary nod to Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," in saying that “only in a Humpty-Dumpty world” could the law be interpreted in some other way. “We decline such a world view,” the decision said.

According to The New York Times, the “new source review” section of the Clean Air Act, which the Bush administration was trying to soften with the new regulation, “governs the permits required at more than 1,300 coal-fueled power plants around the country and 17,000 factories, refineries and chemical plants that spew millions of tons of pollution into the air each year.”

“This is an enormous victory over the concerted efforts by the Bush administration to dismantle the Clean Air Act,” said Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general and gubernatorial candidate, in an interview with The Times. Spitzer, whose office led the case for the states, said the ruling “shows that the administration's effort to misinterpret and undermine the statute is illegal.”

Industry Leaders Disagree with Court’s Ruling
Energy companies said the rule that was overturned by the court, and another rule proposed in 2002 and upheld by the same court last summer, would help them provide more energy at reduced cost to consumers. Environmentalists countered by saying that easing regulations requiring industry to control emissions would increase pollution and undermine the intent of the Clean Air Act.

Despite the court’s ruling, the battle may not be over yet. The government has 45 days to decide whether to ask the full Court of Appeals to review the ruling, and it is almost certain the Bush administration will continue to look for ways to modify and undermine the Clean Air Act to provide less regulation and industry oversight.

More information:

Judges Overturn Bush Bid to Ease Pollution Rules -- The New York Times [Free registration may be required to view this article.]

Decision No. 03-1380 -- U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia

More Than Half of U.S. Population Lives in Counties with Unsafe Air

Blacks More Likely Than Whites to Breathe Bad Air

EPA Rewards Polluters with Reduced Oversight

Saturday March 18, 2006 | comments (0)

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