States File Suit in Attempt to Block New E.P.A. Rules
By Terence Neilan
The New York Times
A coalition of 14 states plus the District of Columbia
filed papers in federal court today in an effort to stop
the Environmental Protection Agency from introducing a
new rule that the states say will seriously weaken the
provisions of the Clean Air Act and send more pollution
into the atmosphere.
Twelve states, led by New York, sued the E.P.A. on Oct.
27, arguing that the new regulations would lower air pollution
protections and damage public health.
Today the same states, joined by California and Illinois,
sought a court order blocking the new regulations, which
are scheduled to be introduced on Dec. 26, in 12 states
that do not administer these rules themselves. The 38
other states will have up to three years to decide whether
to adopt the new rules.
The 14 states states that sued today want the new rule
to be put on hold while the case is brought to trial to
determine whether or not the regulations are legal. The
new rule "violates the plain language of the Clean
Air Act, conflicts with Congressional intent, and contradicts
longstanding court rulings," the states said in a
"It is a sad day in America when a coalition of
states must go to federal court to defend the Clean Air
Act against the misguided actions of the federal agency
created to protect the environment," the New York
attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, said. "But in this
matter, the E.P.A. is standing with polluters instead
of with the people it is supposed to protect, and the
states have no choice but to take this action."
The Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal,
said: "This rollback will mean more smog, and acid
rain, more asthma, respiratory-related disease and even
death for Connecticut and the nation."
He added: "Given the dire threat to public health
and the environment, and the strength of our case, the
court should call a time out until we have the opportunity
to show that these changes are illegal. The Bush Administration
seeks to repeal the Clean Air Act by dictatorial edict,
which it can't legally do. In doing so, the administration
is sacrificing public health and the environment to advance
the financial interests of its friends in the energy industry."
The previous E.P.A. rules, known as New Source Review
regulations, had generally required older coal-fired power
plants and oil refineries to add new pollution controls
if they were modernized in ways that increased harmful
But the revised standards create substantial exemptions
for the industry and would halt investigations at more
than 50 power plants owned by 10 different utilities,
E.P.A. enforcement lawyers say.
Any modifications costing up to 20 percent of the replacement
cost of the unit will be considered routine maintenance,
and therefore exempt from pollution controls, Mr. Spitzer
said in a statement on Oct. 27, "even if the plant
modification results in much higher levels of air pollution."
Thirteen cases in which the E.P.A. had already determined
that the law had been violated have been dropped, Mr.
Spitzer says. He added that the states are seeking records
for those cases and will file lawsuits if they are warranted.
An agency spokeswoman, Lisa Harrison, said last week
that Mr. Spitzer "either already has, or has access
to, all of the documents that he is referring to."
Ms. Harrison has since left the agency. Cynthia Bergman,
the E.P.A.'s new press secretary, said she would not comment
until she had seen a statement put out by the 14 states.
"The Oct. 27 action and today's action are like
a two-pronged approach to what from our perspective is
the same problem," Mark Violette, a spokesman in
Albany for Mr. Spitzer, said.
"We went into court on Oct. 27 and we said essentially
this is illegal," Mr. Violette said. "We are
suing the Bush administration and the E.P.A., and we will
show in the course of a lawsuit, a trial, a) why this
rule is injurious to the health of Americans and to the
environment, and b) will show why the way the Bush administration
did this is illegal."
Essentially, the request to the court today will be to
block the rules from taking effect as scheduled, "while
we are in the middle of a lawsuit about the legality of
the rule itself," Mr. Violette said.
Today's action was filed in the United States Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In addition to New York, California and Illinois, the
states suing today are Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,
New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. A number of local governments,
including the city of New York and various Connecticut
municipalities, have also joined the suit.