May 19, 2020 / 7:23 PM / 12 days ago

Court rules U.S. environment agency must protect states from upwind air pollution

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violated the law when it denied a request from Maryland and Delaware to tighten air pollution controls at power plants in upwind neighboring states.

The decision by the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit could force the EPA to impose new curbs on some coal-fired power plants, even as the administration of President Donald Trump seeks to help the industry by slashing environmental regulations.

The EPA is reviewing the decision, said spokeswoman Enesta Jones.

Maryland and Delaware had filed their petition to the EPA in 2018 asking for tougher pollution limits on some 36 coal-fired power plant units in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The states had argued that those power plants were in violation of the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor provision” for the release of nitrogen oxides into the air. The majority of Maryland’s ozone pollution originates from upwind states.

The EPA rejected the petition, arguing that requiring upwind power plants to add more pollution controls to protect downwind states was not cost-effective for the plant owners.

Richard Revesz of NYU’s School of Law and director of the Institute for Policy Integrity filed the amicus brief on behalf of Maryland and Delaware. He said the ruling made clear the EPA is obligated to prevent states from harming the air quality of their neighboring states when emissions travel downwind and “can’t cite cost as a reason to ignore the law altogether.”

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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