NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EPA Plans To Bypass Court Decisions

June 15, 1999

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency think they have come up with a strategy to partially resurrect their air pollution regulations. Just last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia raised several objections to the EPA standards -- including that Congress had given the agency too much leeway in setting standards and that the agency had failed to justify its decisions.

Now the agency thinks it has a new way to force power plants in 12 states to cut pollutants.

  • The approach relies on petitions by four states saying that no matter what they did within their borders they could not meet older smog standards -- because too much pollution blew in from other states.
  • Using that argument, the agency says it can force plants in 12 states to reduce their output of nitrogen oxides by about 60 percent of what the agency had sought.
  • Ten other states that are targets of the standards now in limbo would not be affected by the petitions.
  • The petitions which the agency intends to use were filed under an older standard, still intact, which sets a one- hour peak limit for smog -- rather than the eight-hour standard which the court rejected.

Representatives of the utility and coal industry -- which won the court challenge -- said they would also file challenges to the new approach.

EPA administrator Carol M. Browner, referring to the agency's pollution reduction efforts, said EPA personnel "had a path to get us there, a sensible path." She charged that the "courts robbed us of that opportunity, but we're not giving up."

Source: Matthew L. Wald, "After Rulings, Agency Alters Plan to Limit Air Pollution," New York Times, June 15, 1999.


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