Northeast states pissed at Midwest states over coal pollution

By John Upton, Grist

The governors of eight Northeastern states are fed up with the air pollution that blows their way from states to their west.

In the latest high-profile move to crush the antiquated practice of burning coal in the U.S., the governors filed a petition with the EPA today that seeks more stringent air quality regulations on coal-burning states such as Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. That’s because pollution from those states’ coal-fired power plants reaches the Atlantic coastline, sickening residents there. From The New York Times:


[There is] growing anger of East Coast officials against the Appalachian states that mine coal and the Rust Belt states that burn it to fuel their power plants and factories. Coal emissions are the chief cause of global warming and are linked to many health risks, including asthma and lung disease.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, who is leading the effort by East Coast governors to crack down on out-of-state pollution, called it a “front-burner issue” for his administration. …

Mr. Malloy said that more than half the pollution in Connecticut was from outside the state and that it was lowering the life expectancy of Connecticut residents with heart disease or asthma. “They’re getting away with murder,” Mr. Malloy said of the Rust Belt and Appalachia. “Only it’s in our state, not theirs.”

And there’s more big air pollution news this week. From the Times:

The petition comes the day before the Supreme Court is to hear arguments to determine the fate of a related E.P.A. regulation known as the “good neighbor” rule. The regulation, officially called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, would force states with coal pollution that wafts across state lines to rein in soot and smog, either by installing costly pollution control technology or by shutting the power plants.

Bloomberg reports on that “good neighbor” court case:

The Supreme Court will hear arguments over reviving an EPA rule that would limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in 28 states whose pollution blows into neighboring jurisdictions. All are in the eastern two-thirds of the country.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the rule. It said the regulation was too strict and that EPA didn’t give states a chance to put in place their own pollution-reduction plans before imposing a nationwide standard. The Obama administration and environmental groups are appealing.

Some energy companies have been powering down their coal-fired stations, citing financial losses, but plenty of coal-burning plants are still pumping out pollutants. In October, Wisconsin Energy Corp. sought permission to shutter its 407-megawatt Presque Isle coal-fired power plant in Michigan. The request was denied by the regional grid operator, which said the region couldn’t manage without the power plant’s electricity supply. The grid operator is now in talks over compensation, to help the energy company continue operating the plant at a loss.

The Supreme Court case could decide the fate of Presque Isle and many other coal plants, so it’s one to watch. Another air-pollution case is also being argued tomorrow, this one in the D.C. Circuit Court over the EPA’s mercury rules. “This is the biggest day for clean air in American courts — ever,” John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council told Bloomberg.

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