EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Thrown Out by Federal Court

Published September 11, 2012

A federal court of appeals threw out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, saying EPA usurped too much authority from individual states and required states to make deeper emissions cuts than authorized under federal law. 

EPA Trampled State Officials

Under the Clean Air Act, the individual states retain authority to draft their own plans to meet federal clean air restrictions. EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, however, did not recognize this important right and sought to impose EPA-drafted plans on the states immediately rather than as a last resort.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule also violates federal law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled, by ordering individual states to make deeper cuts than necessary.

EPA’s stated purpose for the rule is to prevent upwind states from causing downwind states to violate clean air restrictions through no fault of their own. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, however, requires upwind states to cut emissions more than necessary to meet this stated intent, the court ruled. 

Assist States or Dictate?

“EPA dramatically and routinely exceeds its legal power and tramples the right of individual states to craft their own plans to protect the environment,” said Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr. “When EPA was created, its intended role was to work with the states and serve as an important state resource. Instead, EPA increasingly views itself as a federal taskmaster, with federal bureaucrats dictating to the states what their environmental policies must be.

“EPA was established to help state environmental protection agencies, not rule over them, because each state has separate and distinct circumstances and environmental challenges. State environmental protection officials are better able to meet those challenges than bureaucrats hundreds or thousands of miles away who have never put boots on the ground in the particular states,” Lehr explained.

“State environmental protection agencies, moreover, are very diligent about protecting the environment,” Lehr added. “In many instances the states provide more environmental protection than the federal EPA. Just as importantly, state environmental officials can discern when proposed federal standards are unnecessary in a particular state and impose excessive costs with little or no environmental benefit.” 

EPA will attempt to draft changes to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to bring it into compliance with federal law. The process will likely take more than a year.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News.