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Court Temporarily Allows Bush Plan on Pollution

(CN) - The D.C. Circuit reversed itself and determined that the Bush administration's plan for reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants, though "fundamentally flawed," would suffice until the Environmental Protection Agency came up with a better plan.

A three-judge panel rejected the plan in July, finding "more than several fatal flaws" in the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which included a cap-and-trade program to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

The judges previously agreed with North Carolina and several electric power producers that the EPA had exceeded its authority in creating the rule.

"No amount of tinkering with the rule or revising of the explanations will transform CAIR, as written, into an acceptable rule," the panel had stated in a strongly worded opinion.

But after rehearing consolidated appeals, the court decided to remand the case without vacating the regulation.

"(W)e are convinced that, notwithstanding the relative flaws of CAIR, allowing CAIR to remain in effect until it is replaced by a rule consistent with our opinion would at least temporarily preserve the environmental values covered by CAIR," the court wrote.

The judges declined to set a deadline for correcting the flaws, but noted that "we do not intend to grant an indefinite stay of the effectiveness of this court's decision."

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