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240 Million Americans to Lose Protections From Coal Pollution

US Court Throws Out EPA Coal Pollution Rule, Leaves Millions Exposed to Harmful Emissions

Common Dreams staff

(Photo: Reuters/Chris Baltimore/Files)

Up to 240 million Americans will now lose protections against dangerous smog and soot pollution, following a decision by a US appeals court on Tuesday. In a 2-1 decision the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would have reduced harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants and saved the lives of up to 34,000 people per year.

“This decision allows harmful power plant air pollution to continue to aggravate major health problems and foul up our air. This is a loss for all of us, but especially for those living downwind from major polluters,” said John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The rule, slated to reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen oxide by 54 percent at coal-fired power plants from 2005 levels in 28 states, will now be sent back for revision for an indefinite period of time.

The EPA had adopted the regulation one year ago in a bid to reduce downwind pollution from power plants across state lines. It was scheduled to go into effect in January; however, several large power companies and some states sued to stop it.

“This rule would have prevented thousands of premature deaths and saved tens of billions of dollars a year in health costs, but two judges blocked that from happening and forced EPA to further delay long overdue health safeguards for Americans,” Walke stated.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the rule would have:

  • Saved up to 34,000 lives each year
  • Prevented 15,000 heart attacks each year
  • Prevented 400,000 asthma attacks each year
  • Provided $120 billion to $280 billion in health benefits for the nation each year

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