Supreme Court asked to hear cross-state air pollution case

A coalition of health and environmental organizations appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider a controversial appeals court ruling in a lawsuit over the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the Clean Air Council filed the appeal — officially called a petition for writ of certiorari — with the Supreme Court.

“The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is vital for the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of Americans,” said EDF counsel Sean H. Donahue. “We have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision given the profound public interest in ensuring healthier, longer lives for the 240 million Americans afflicted by power plant pollution and given the appeals court’s sharp deviation from settled legal principles.”

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is a pollution reduction measure that would protect air quality for 240 million Americans across the Eastern U.S. and save up to 34,000 lives each year.

The rule was created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act, which is intended to ensure that the emissions from one state’s power plants do not cause harmful pollution levels in neighboring states.

Opponents of the clean air standards sued to block them. In August, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated and remanded the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to EPA.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would reduce the sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants across 28 eastern states. Those emissions, and the resulting particulate pollution and ozone — more commonly known as soot and smog — drift across the borders of those states and contribute to dangerous, sometimes lethal, levels of pollution in downwind states.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would reduce power plant sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and oxides of nitrogen by 54 percent from 2005 levels. While no one is immune to these impacts, children and the elderly in downwind states are especially vulnerable.

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