Attorneys General from nine eastern states have filed suit in federal appeals court to block newly issued Environmental Protection Agency air-pollution rules, contending the regulations will make the air dirtier.

New York Attorney General Spitzer
(photo Credit:Office of Eliot Spitzer)

The suit, filed Dec. 31 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, challenges EPA regulations covering "New Source Review" requirements. New Source Review determines when upgrades to coal-fired powerplants, refineries and other industrial facilities are big enough to require installation of new pollution-control equipment.

Plaintiffs include the attorneys general from New York, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. Eight of the AGs are Democrats; the ninth, New Hampshire's Acting AG, Stephen J. Judge, says he isn't an elected official and has no party affiliation.

New York AG Eliot Spitzer said, "The Bush administration has taken an action that will bring more acid rain, more smog, more asthma, and more respiratory disease to millions of Americans."
When EPA announced the rules in November, Jeffrey Holmstead, an assistant administrator, said the final regulations "will result in greater emission reductions than we expect to have with the current program."

EPA published the new source rules in the Federal Register on Dec. 31, which triggered the nine states' long-promised lawsuit.

A utility industry group representative criticized the nine AGs' action. Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, said, "The northeast attorneys general reflect a minority opinion, unfortunately demonstrating their desire to address economic competitive concerns rather than environmental protection."

The lawsuit targets several provisions of the EPA rules. They include an exclusion from a new-source major permit for upgrades at what EPA terms "clean units." Those are facilities that already had installed "best available" pollution-control technology. Also challenged are a new way to calculate the emissions "baseline" to determine whether emissions would increase enough to trigger NSR; and plantwide emissions caps, an NSR exemption that the AGs contend could permit pollution to rise far more than present levels.