December 30, 2008

Pa. to begin enforcing Bush clean-air rule

Pennsylvania will begin enforcing a federal clean-air rule to cut emissions of smog-forming pollutants generated by power plants, officials said.

The enforcement, set to begin Thursday, follows a federal appeals court's reversal of its July 11 ruling that struck down a key portion of President George W. Bush's Clear Skies legislation because of fatal flaws.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia still says the Clean Air Interstate Rule is flawed.

But Judge Judith Rogers wrote in a concurring opinion that letting the country go without the rule's protection while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fixes it would sacrifice clear benefits to public health and the environment.

The agency estimates the rule would prevent 17,000 premature deaths and 700,000 cases of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments annually across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions by 2015.

Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State John Hanger said in a statement workers were moving forward with our state implementation plans to meet ozone and fine-particulate standards and to improve visibility while reducing regional haze.

Pennsylvania is among the nation's top producers of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide because it has so many coal-fired power plants, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The pollutants contribute to smog, which can cause or exacerbate asthma, bronchitis and other breathing problems.