Supreme Court Rules for Clean Air
April 2, 2007
In a monumental ruling, on April 2, 2007 the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that coal-fired power plants must follow clean air rules by declining to hear industry and Administration efforts to retool the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review program. NSR is a key Clean Air Act provision that requires plants to install modern pollution safeguards when updating the rest of their facilities. Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope stated that “The Supreme Court sent a clear message today: coal-fired power plants are not above the law and cannot be allowed to shirk clean air rules in favor of profits. Another industry attempt to sidestep pollution controls and protect their aging, dinosaur power plants has failed.” The Court’s unanimous decision protects a critical component of the Clean Air Act and holds industry accountable for the pollution they’ve caused.
March 16, 2006
On March 17, 2006, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the Bush administration's attempt to gut a critical Clean Air Act safeguard known commonly as New Source Review (or NSR). NSR requires power plants and other industrial facilities to install up-to-date pollution controls whenever they increase their air pollution emissions. The administration's plan was to get rid of this requirement for any facility changes costing less than 20 percent of the whole "process unit", even if air pollution at the facility increased by tens of thousands of tons per year.
Under the Clinton administration the Environmental Protection Agency brought enforcement cases against many NSR violators. The Bush administration tried to derail these actions and prevent future ones through its proposed loophole. Represented by Earthjustice, Sierra Club joined a coalition of environmental and public health groups in 2003 to stop this misguided measure and protect the health of millions of Americans.
March 5, 2004
Christmas Eve of 2003 saw a gift come from the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. to all people who value clean air. The court restrained the Bush administration from putting into force its controversial “New Source Review” rules - rules which would undermine the enforcement of the Clean Air Act against heavily-polluting old power plants. The Bush rules, recommended by the Cheney Energy Task Force, allow old power plants to remodel without installing state of the art pollution control equipment. As a result, thousands of tons of unnecessary pollution, including toxic mercury and heavy soot, would rain down across the country. The early victory in this case bodes well for progress on clean air in the courts.
May 1, 2003
The Sierra Club joined with a coalition of major environmental groups in a legal challenge to the Bush administration’s attempt to weaken major Clean Air Act safeguards known as the “New Source Review” rules. When the Clean Air Act became law in 1970, thousands of the oldest and dirtiest facilities (coal-fired power plants, refineries, chemical plants and pulp mills) were “grandfathered” in and allowed to pollute above the legal limit, with the understanding that if they expanded, they would have to upgrade pollution controls. The Bush Administration rules would weaken these key protections against soot, smog, and toxic air pollutants nationwide from about 17,000 large facilities. This litigation will help draw public attention to the administration’s refusal to require industry to implement readily available solutions to the nation’s air pollution problems.
Details and Documents:
A Breath of Fresh Air
March 19, 2006, Editorial, New York Times
Judges Overturn Bush Bid to Ease Pollution Rules
March 18, 2006, by Michael Janofsky, in New York Times
March 17, 2006. U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Court Rejects Bush Administration Plan to Gut Key Clean Air Act Safeguard
March 17, 2006, Coalition Press Release
See other "Safeguarding Communities" cases.