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U.S. justices to hear EPA appeal over air pollution rule

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider the lawfulness of an Obama administration effort to regulate air pollution that crosses state lines.

At the request of the administration, the American Lung Association and environmental groups, the justices will review an appeals court ruling that invalidated the Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency implemented to enforce a provision of the Clean Air Act.

The rule sets limits on nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide in 28 upwind states in the eastern part of the country. Various power companies and 16 states successfully challenged the law in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The appeals court ruled in August 2012 that the EPA had exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act by requiring states to curb air pollution to a greater extent than the statute requires. The rule was due to go into effect at the beginning of 2012 but the court issued a stay during the litigation.

The appeals court also said the EPA acted prematurely by failing to tell states what emissions reductions they had to achieve to meet their obligations under the statute before going ahead with its own federal plan.

The appeals court ordered that a rule issued by President George W. Bush's administration, which the appeals court ruled in 2008 was insufficient, should remain in effect until the EPA comes up with a revised regulation.

Oral arguments and a decision are due in the court's next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2014.

The two consolidated cases the court agreed to hear are American Lung Association v. EME Homer City Generation, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-1183 and EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 1182.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Will Dunham)