Court Rejects EPA's Nox Plan

Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1995
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has vacated the Clean Air Act (CAA) compliance rules for reducing NOx emissions from coal-burning electric facilities (Alabama Power Co. v. EPA, No. 94-1170, 94-1329, Nov. 29, 1994). The ruling suspends any obligation to comply with the NOx standards pending further rulemaking by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The court said the EPA had improperly broadened the statutorily defined type of pollution control technology that utilities would be required to install in attempting to meet the CAA's NOx emissions standards.

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Section 407 of the 1990 amendments to the CAA required the EPA to set NOx emissions within specified limits and mandated compliance by January 1, 1995. That date has now been put on hold.

The CAA amendments specifically require the EPA to allow higher emissions where a utility can demonstrate that "low NOx burner technology" cannot meet the standard requirements. Many of the nation's utilities, joined by the National Coal Association, objected after the EPA ruled that "low NOx burner technology," as used in the statute, includes more extensive "overfire air" emission control methods.

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