Emissions blow downwind from a coal-fired power plant. Photo courtesy iStockphoto

New standards designed to protect against harmful power plant emissions that cross state lines were struck down Tuesday by a federal appeals court. In a 2-1 ruling, the court found the rule “costly, burdensome and arbitrary,” reported the Washington Post.

Known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the standards would have required 28 states in the eastern half of the United States to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that blow downwind and contribute to ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution in other states.

The rule would have dramatically reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, according to EPA. The agency estimated that the measure would have prevented up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks and 19,000 emergency department visits annually and yielded $120 billion to $280 billion in annual health and environmental benefits.

“Today’s decision by the court to vacate the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is a misguided rejection of EPA’s commonsense approach in addressing the ‘second-hand smog’ that has for too long plagued 28 eastern states,” said Albert Rizzo, past chair of the American Lung Association, in a statement. “This decision means that millions of Americans who live downwind of power plants must continue to breathe life-threatening pollution.”

APHA strongly supported the new rule and its public health protections.

The rule now goes back to EPA for further review. The administration could appeal the decision.