Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Court of Appeals throws out CSAPR ruling

By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com

Utility companies across the country are celebrating a major decision by the Court of Appeals today.

In a 2-1 decision, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has overturned the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, a new regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency that would have required utility companies to meet more emissions requirements.

"Our decision today should not be interpreted as a comment on the wisdom or policy merits of," wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in a decision joined by Judge Thomas Griffith. "It is not our job to set environmental policy. Our limited but important role is to independently ensure that the agency stays within the boundaries Congress has set. EPA did not do so here."

A local opponent of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule was the Board of Public Utilities. The new regulation would have heavily affected the BPU's coal-fire plants.

In May, the BPU asked the Unified Government's Board of Commissioners to authorize over $80 million worth of bonds as a direct result of meeting the new CSAPR regulations.

It's estimated CSAPR would have cost utility companies over $800 million annually starting in 2014.

After the ruling, BPU released a statement, stating the utility has made efforts to meet environmental regulations and will continue to do so.

Here it is:
Today, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia released its opinion vacating the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule ("CSAPR") in its entirety. CSAPR would have called for electric generating utilities like the BPU to meet stringent requirements for emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide through a cap-and-trade system and to do so in a very short timeframe. The Court's ruling focuses on the EPA's failure to properly account for the States' roles in controlling the interstate transport of air emissions and the regulation's "overcorrection" of estimated interstate transport of air emissions.  BPU is in a large group of electric utilities and industries that challenged the rule.  Today's ruling puts the role of Kansas and the role of science in perspective in these important EPA rulemakings.

CSAPR is one of many recent and pending rules promulgated by the EPA for further control of air emissions.  The BPU has and will continue to adhere to all local, state, and federal environmental laws and regulations.  The BPU has been evaluating options to reduce its overall emissions as a good environmental steward and in response to new and pending rules and will continue to do so. 

CSAPR would have replaced a rule promulgated by EPA in 2005, the Clean Air Interstate Rule ("CAIR"). In 2005, EPA determined that Kansas was not subject to the CAIR rule because Kansas did not significantly affect downwind air quality. CAIR was challenged and struck down by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for being "fundamentally flawed."  CSAPR forced utilities in states that were not CAIR states into a compliance timeline that was unreasonable because it was much shorter than the five years allowed for compliance under CAIR.