A federal court ordered Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency's controversial cross-state air pollution rule be stayed — to the delight of Texas officials and the chagrin of environmentalists.
The rule, which sought to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in Texas and 26 other states, had been scheduled to take effect in January. Now it will await a ruling by the court on its legal merits.
In a statement, Gov. Rick Perry said, "The court was right to stay this highly flawed, job-killing rule that was based on inaccurate and incomplete information."
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which granted the stay, is seeking to hear the case by April 2012, according to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
"The Texas Attorney General's Office will pursue every available legal remedy to prevent the EPA from imposing its cross-state air pollution rule, and the electricity disruptions and blackouts that state utility officials have said this rule will cause," Abbott said in a statement.
Luminant, a Texas power-generation giant, said that it would no longer shutter two units at its Monticello coal plant in Northeast Texas. Luminant "intends to continue closely evaluating business and operational decisions given that this stay does not invalidate the rule, but delays a decision on its implementation until a final court ruling is issued," the company's statement said.
Environmentalists, who have been trying to shutter Monticello for years, are disappointed with the decision.
In a blog post, the clean-air group Downwinders at Risk wrote:
"If the rules get pushed back past the beginning of ozone season, it means all those dirty Luminant plants upwind of [Dallas Fort-Worth] in East and Central Texas will still be contributing a significant amount of smog pollution to the Metromess a year after our worst ozone summer in five years spotlighted state ineptitude in getting cleaner air."
Tom "Smitty" Smith, the head of the Texas office of Public Citizen, said that environmentalists would "prevail in court eventually." The delay, he said, "will harm breathers all across Texas, who will be subject to far higher levels of pollution. ... It's a few greedy utilities who once again stop the progress on air pollution in the state of Texas."