A critical clean air rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which would help provide cleaner air for an estimated 240 million Americans — including Appalachians — was dealt a setback today by the U.S. Court of Appeals which rejected the rule 2-to-1.
Finalized in August 2011, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would help prevent pollution from power plants in one state from reaching downwind states. EPA estimates that the rule would prevent between 13,000 and 34,000 premature deaths by 2014, along with preventing thousands of nonfatal heart attacks, asthma attacks, sick days and other negative health impacts associated with air pollution.
The rule focuses on the reduction of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. These pollutants are emitted mostly from coal-fired power plants, particularly plants concentrated in the Southeast that burn high-sulfur Central Appalachian coal, much of which is from mountaintop removal mines.
Advocacy groups across the country are already calling for the Obama administration to appeal the ruling, and we fully expect them to do so. The other option is to start from scratch, delaying much needed pollution limits even longer.
That is not an alternative we can live with.