Reuters reports that efforts by U.S. regulators to cut air pollution from coal-fired power plants faced a setback on Friday when a federal appeals court issued a last-minute order delaying their January 1 implementation.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals granted a request to stay the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) pending further court review.
The EPA finalized the rule in July, setting much stricter limits on sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 27 states to protect the health of residents in states downwind from the emissions.
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.
The group responsible for keeping the U.S. power grid reliable has warned that the cumulative impact of the EPA's rules could create power problems in Texas and New England.
Proponents of stricter rules say the industry can adapt and maintain that the costs of implementing the rules will be offset by savings from reduced healthcare expenses.
The EPA estimated that the Cross State rule will save up to 34,000 lives, prevent 15,000 heart attacks and prevent 400,000 asthma attacks each year, providing $120 billion to $280 billion in annual health benefits for the nation.
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.