Wednesday, February 28, 2001

High Court backs use of Clean Air Act

From staff and wire reports

        WASHINGTON — The nation's premier environmental law withstood a major industry challenge Tuesday when the Supreme Court upheld the way the government sets air-quality standards under the Clean Air Act.

        The court unanimously rejected industry arguments that the Environmental Protection Agency must consider financial cost as well as health benefits in writing standards.

        The American Lung Association called the ruling “a victory for the Clean Air Act and for the health of the American people.”

        The Clean Air Act became law in 1970, and the challenge by industry groups was viewed as the most significant environmental case before the Supreme Court in years.

        The justices rejected in dustry arguments that the EPA took too much lawmaking power from Congress when it set tougher standards for ozone and soot in 1997.

        Nevertheless, the court threw out the EPA's policy for implementing new ozone rules and ordered the agency to come up with a more “reasonable” interpretation of the law.

        Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery filed a friend of the court brief in the case, urging the high court to overturn an EPA smog standard.

        “The EPA can't come along and change what Congress already set out,” said Judy French, an assistant attorney general who argued Ohio's case.

        The state argued that the rule was illegal because it was more stingent than standards Congress created.

        EPA Administrator Chris tine Whitman said the decision was “a solid endorsement of EPA's efforts to protect the health of millions of Americans from the dangers of air pollution.”

        A spokesman for Cinergy Corp., which late last year reached a record $1.4 billion settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over pollution from several of its coal-fired generation plants, said the company had no comment.


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