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Federal High Court Ruling Could Help Clear the Air in 'Downwind' NJ

Long-litigated EPA regulation puts a lid on power plant emissions, should help reduce airborne pollutants from coal-burning facilities

coal-burning plant

In a decision that could help reduce air pollution from being blown into New Jersey from neighboring states to the west and south, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday upheld a rule to curb harmful emissions from power plants. . The issue created some unusual alliances with big energy companies, like Public Service Electric & Gas, and the State Chamber of Commerce, siding with environmentalists, such as the Sierra Club, and the federal agency in support of the rule.

The Christie administration filed a successful lawsuit against a power plant on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, long accused of polluting New Jersey’s air, an action that led to an agreement to shutter the plant.

Beyond the potential health impacts, the differing emission standards in southern and western states put a New Jersey plant at a competitive disadvantage compared with its counterparts upwind. With less expensive pollution controls, those facilities can operate cheaper than plants in state, leading them to be more heavily relied upon by the regional operator of the power grid.

Critics of the rule, the upwind states and power plants located there, argued that the measure would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and lead to the shutdown of many coal plants, which provide the bulk of electricity in the region.

“While New Jersey has taken some proactive measures to reduce its own hazardous plant emissions, our residents continue to suffer at the hands of upwind polluters,’’ said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), applauding the court’s ruling.

“By recognizing that dirty emissions don’t stop at the state line, the Supreme Court’s ruling will save tens of thousands of lives every year and reduce healthcare costs in New Jersey and across the nation,’’ he said.

The new rule, he argued, could save over 1,200 lives per year in New Jersey and eliminate as many as 34,000 premature deaths nationwide, and prevent 400,000 asthma attacks.

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