Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008 | 2:05 a.m.
Environmentalists, led by the Sierra Club, scored a major victory for those of us who appreciate clean air by persuading a federal appellate court to reverse an Environmental Protection Agency rule that would have caused more pollution if left intact.
The 2-1 ruling announced Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit means that state and local government agencies will regain authority under the Clean Air Act to require industrial polluters to increase their air pollution monitoring when the agencies determine it is necessary. The EPA stripped that power away with a 2006 rule that was consistent with many other moves by the Bush administration to weaken federal pollution regulations.
When Congress amended the Clean Air Act in 1990 it allowed local and state governments to play a more prominent role in ensuring that power plants, factories and other polluters were not reckless in their discharge of soot, mercury, smog and other harmful elements. By taking that authority away, the EPA in effect gave those plants and factories carte blanche to fill the skies with dirty air.
“This is a huge victory against one of the most egregious rollbacks of environmental protections in our nation’s history,” Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said in a statement.
It would be refreshing if the EPA returned to the business of protecting the environment, a mission it has forgotten ever since the Bush administration began directing its political appointees to rewrite good regulations or replace them with bad ones. This administration has created a monster that might as well go by the name Environmental Destruction Agency.
State and local government agencies deserve to be involved in decisions on the level of acceptable pollutants emitted by industrial sources, because those agencies are often in a better position than the federal government to respond to complaints from citizens about dirty air. That’s why we’re glad the court ruled the way it did.