From: Eileen O'Grady, Reuters, HOUSTON
Published December 31, 2011 07:55 AM

EPA Air Quality rule on coal plants delayed

A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday issued a last-minute order to delay the January 1 implementation of stricter federal limits on pollution from coal-fired plants, providing a temporary win for utilities worried about the cost of implementation.

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In a blow to environmental groups, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted a request to stay the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, pending further court review.

The EPA finalized the rule in July, setting much stricter limits on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 27 states to protect the health of residents in states downwind from the emissions.

"The EPA firmly believes that when the court does weigh the merits of the rule it will ultimately be upheld," the agency said in a statement after the court's decision.

Power generators said the January 1 implementation date was too soon to allow the design and installation of pollution control equipment to meet the rule, forcing a number of units to shut or to run only part of the time.

Texas challenged the EPA rule because the state was included in the final version without having an opportunity to provide input on its impact in Texas. State regulators who met later with EPA officials said the agency used faulty assumptions about the state's power grid.

The court's stay decision "is a prudent one that now gives the court time to review the regulation and its burdensome effects on Texas," state Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement on Friday.

The state's largest power producer, Dallas-based Luminant, said the court stay "recognizes the irreparable harm it would cause to our company and others," according to a statement.

Luminant had planned to suspend operations at two coal-fired units in North Texas January 1.

Photo credit: ohiocitizen.org

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/31/us-utilities-epa-idUSTRE7BT17420111231

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