Supreme Court Hears Clean Air Act Case, Future Protections Against Harmful Pollution at Stake

Earthjustice litigation pivotal in turning back weak EPA New Source Review rules, protecting public health


Keri Powell / Jared Saylor, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500

The United States Supreme Court today heard arguments in a case that could force many aging industrial polluters to install up-to-date air pollution controls. The case involves an Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit brought against Duke Energy Corp. for failing to upgrade pollution controls when undertaking major renovations at eight coal-fired power plants.

At issue are the Clean Air Act’s “New Source Review” provisions. These require old and dirty power plants, refineries, and other industrial polluters, if and when they make changes that increase emissions, to retrofit with up-to-date technologies. These technologies could result in cleaner emissions and better protections for surrounding communities, but industry has vehemently opposed them in favor of profits.

In previous cases, Earthjustice successfully challenged two Bush administration rules that would have created significant New Source Review loopholes. EPA rewrote New Source Review rules in 2002, slowing and even reversing progress that has been made over the last three decades to reduce harmful pollutants that contribute to smog and acid rain.

“Just this March, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, threw out a Bush administration rule that would have allowed these power plants to skirt the law and continue polluting at unhealthy levels,” said Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell. Earthjustice represented national environmental and public health groups in the lawsuit, which challenged EPA rules issued in 2003.

“Congress intended New Source Review to play a critical role in reducing harmful air pollution,” Powell added. “But the strides made in the last 36 years are now at risk. This case gives the nation’s highest court the opportunity to uphold the requirements of the Clean Air Act.”

Powell attended today’s Supreme Court hearing and will be available to answer questions about the impact this case could have on pending and future New Source Review requirements. 

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