One Region’s Pollution Becomes Everyone’s Problem

The EPA thought they’d found a solution to this dilemma, but the courts said, not so fast.
Based on a new federal appeals court ruling, you'd better hope the wind from coal power plants isn’t blowing in your direction. (Ina Fassbender / Reuters)
Aug 21, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

So much for the concept of a good neighbor policy. “A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down a key Obama administration air pollution rule meant to protect Eastern residents from polluters in neighboring states, saying that the Environmental Protection Agency must grant states more time to implement protections,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“The ruling by two George W. Bush appointees covers the ‘good neighbor rule’ issued by the EPA in mid-2011 to regulate emissions of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides, the main ingredients in soot and smog. The rule is one of several federal efforts to arbitrate a long-standing regional dispute between coal-powered, lightly regulated states mainly in the South and Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic and New England states where the toxic emissions wind up on account of prevailing winds.”

If you haven’t heard of the “Good Neighbor Rule,” the Clean Air Council provides an explanation: “Coal-fired power plants dump millions of tons of pollution into the air. That pollution spreads from state to state, giving kids asthma, causing heart attacks, and sending thousands of people to the hospital, but the states need federal help to control pollutions blowing in across their borders.”

MORE: Where Is That Pollution From Originally?

The Council adds, “Now, EPA is acting to help states be good neighbors with a rule that will systematically and efficiently cut pollution from dozens of coal plants that would otherwise spread across the country. This ‘Good Neighbor’ rule will step down pollution in thirty-one states, save lives, and help everyone breathe easier. Better yet, the rule’s benefits outweigh its costs–by over 100 billion dollars.”

Sounds pretty good, right? Not if you’re Madison Project.

In a preview of what might occur in a Romney administration, a story by Daniel Horowitz says, “While this [federal appeals court ruling] is definitely a big victory, and underscores the importance of putting conservatives on the D.C. Circuit Court (which has original jurisdiction over many federal policy issues), we still need to continue a robust legislative assault against these cap and trade style regulations. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act still serve as an albatross around the necks of job creators and can still be used to justify many of the impending regulations, even after the court’s decision.”

ThinkProgress, on the other hand, said, “The ruling endangers public health for all Americans. Air pollution doesn’t stop at state borders.” A story quotes the dissenting judge, Judith Roberts, saying that vacating the rule results in “the endorsement of a ‘maximum delay’ strategy for regulated entities, rewarding states and industries for cloaking their objections throughout years of administrative rule making procedures.”

The EPA can appeal the federal court’s ruling and in a fairly middle-of-the road statement, ThinkProgress quotes Carol M. Browner, a former EPA Administrator, as saying, “The public health benefits are too great and the risks too severe to abandon the effort to reduce cross state air pollution and democrats and republicans, the administration and Congress should work together to find the right way forward.”

Where do you fall on this issue, with the sentiments expressed by Madison Project or those of ThinkProgress? Let us know in the comments.

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence |

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