Friday, July 11, 2008

The legal equivalent of a dirty bomb

It’s the legal equivalent of a dirty bomb: literally tens of thousands of Americans could see their lives cut short by dirty air.

A federal appeals court has struck down key elements of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean-air rule designed to make sweeping reductions in air pollution from coal-fired electric power plants in the Eastern half of the nation. This was the signature air pollution control effort by the Bush Administration.

This is without a doubt the worst news of the year when it comes to air pollution. It is potentially disastrous news for public health. [See more reaction below from our friends with the Clean Air Task Force.]

The Bush administration needs to do more than file the obvious legal appeal: it needs to come up with a fix that is legally full proof. If the Bush administration isn’t up to the task, then Congress must step in and fix this mess. (The bi-partisan legislation introduced by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware is one obvious vehicle.)

Communities throughout the Eastern half of the nation will be at the mercy of deadly pollution that blows in from upwind states.

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Details: when it announced the rules in March 2005, the EPA itself projected that they would prevent 17,000 premature deaths A YEAR. See at http://www.epa.gov/cair/ and http://www.epa.gov/cair/basic.html

The vast majority of those avoided deaths would happen because of reductions in electric power emissions of sulfur dioxide, which chemically convert to deadly fine-particle soot.

To quote from then-acting EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the rule “will result in the largest pollution reductions and health benefits of any air rule in more than a decade.” So you can see what we are losing.
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from the Clean Air Task Force:

Clean Air Task Force Calls for `Urgent Fix’
For Flawed EPA Power Plant Cleanup Plan


(Boston, MA, July 11, 2008 ) -- The non-profit Clean Air Task Force today called on the Bush administration and Congress to make an “urgent fix” to an electric power plant cleanup plan struck down by a federal appeals court.

“Literally tens of thousands of Americans could die prematurely unless the government takes swift and decisive action to clean up power plants emissions,” noted CATF Advocacy Director Conrad Schneider.

The controversy involves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called “Clean Air Interstate Rule,” issued by the Agency in 2005, and struck down yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. See: http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/bin/opinions/allopinions.asp

The rule was a political compromise aimed at reducing electric power plant emissions of soot and smog-forming sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by about 70% in the Eastern U.S. by 2015. According to EPA’s analysis, the pollution reductions would prevent
13,000 premature deaths in 2010, 18,000 in 2015, and 22,000 premature deaths in 2020.

A coalition of electric power companies led by Duke Energy filed suit against the rules.

“This decision will leave tens of millions of Americans exposed to dirty air,” said Schneider. “It will mean avoidable death and disease.”

Schneider also noted that “many states and communities were counting on the EPA rules to help them comply with health-based clean air standards.”

He called on EPA to get to work immediately on reissuing a rule that complies with the Act, in order to “lock in critical health protections for millions of Americans.”

If EPA fails to act swiftly, Schneider urged Congress to “step in and protect the breathing public.” He noted that Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) has introduced bipartisan legislation to sharply reduce power plant emissions.

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