Appeals court strikes down EPA pollution rule

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WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down a key Obama administration air pollution rule meant to protect residents of some states from polluters in neighboring states, saying that the Environmental Protection Agency must grant states more time to implement protections.

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.

Even cities in the Midwest and the South are affected by their neighbors’ pollution, including Chicago, Knoxville, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C., said Vickie Patton, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, which had intervened in the case on behalf of the EPA.

In a 2-1 decision, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA had overstepped its authority by issuing federal pollution standards before states had a chance to develop their own and by calling for emissions reductions greater than the court’s majority considered necessary.

Led by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the court vacated the rule and ordered the EPA to develop a new one, leaving in its place a Bush-era regulation.

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