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Pollution ruling somehow manages to irk both White House and environmentalists

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Jeff Willhelm/Charlotte Observer/MCT/NEWSCOM/FILE

(Read caption) The coal-powered Riverbend Steam Station near North Carolina's Mountain Island Lake.

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A Federal appeals court unanimously struck down an Environmental Protection Agency regulation Friday that requires states to reduce polluting emissions from power plants.

Introduced in 2005 and set to take effect in 2009, the Clean Air Interstate Rule, or CAIR, would have required 28 Eastern and Midwestern states to reduce smog and soot that can travel across state borders. The EPA says that the rule would have prevented about 17,000 deaths a year.

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North Carolina and some electric power producers opposed the rule and sued the EPA. The court agreed, citing what they called "more than several fatal flaws" in the regulation, ruling that the EPA was improperly meddling with allowance trading markets and unfairly privileging coal utilities over natural-gas ones.

The Associated Press describes CAIR as "a signature component of President Bush's clean air policies".  The rule would have permanently capped emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the eastern United States. The AP notes that many power companies are not happy with Friday's ruling, quoting one source who says the power industry has already invested billions in anticipation of a trading market in pollution credits that would have eased the burden of complying with the rule

Environmentalists are upset too. Reuters quotes Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch in Washington, who called the court's ruling "the legal equivalent of a dirty bomb: literally tens of thousands of Americans could see their lives cut short by dirty air."

The White House can seek to appeal the ruling, but some environmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, are calling for "immediate corrective action."

You can view the text of court's ruling here.