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Court Gives EPA Green Light on NOx Rule

Court Gives EPA Green Light on NOx Rule

The D.C. appellate court has issued a final ruling upholding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 1998 clean-air rule requiring several states east of the Mississippi River to enforce strict nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emission standards.

"This decision is a major environmental victory for everyone living throughout the eastern United States," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Brown. At the same time, it was a big loss for coal-fired plants in the Midwest.

Although the clean-air rule leaves it strictly up to the states to choose which sources to tightly regulate, the EPA has suggested they zero in on vintage coal-fired generation plants. The agency contends these facilities have been the biggest emitters of NOx emissions, causing pollution problems in East Coast and Northeast states.

In late June, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a petition by a host of electric utilities and Southeastern and Midwestern states to review a March decision by a three-judge panel of the appellate court upholding the EPA NOx rule. The parties initiated their challenge to the EPA rule in May 1999.

The court decision gives the agency the go-ahead to move forward with enforcement of its 1998 NOx-reduction rule in 19 of the 22 states that are believed to be significant contributors of NOx emissions. It calls for each of the 19 states and the District of Columbia to submit NOx-reduction plans to EPA by the end of October, said EPA spokesman David Ryan.

Excluded from the appeals court decision were Georgia, Missouri and Wisconsin. The agency is planning to issue a new rulemaking for Georgia and Missouri, but Wisconsin is "out completely," Ryan noted.

Susan Parker

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