Yesterday, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., issued a major blow to efforts to curb air pollution. A lower court last year struck down the EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule, and the appeals court declined to reconsider the case. The rule aimed to reduce air pollution that travels from one state to another, a situation that limits the ability of the polluted state to take action against polluters.
The problem is perhaps best illustrated by what's now happening in China. Today in Beijing, the air quality is "unhealthy," according to the automatic sensor atop the U.S. embassy. Two weeks ago, it was five times worse, drawing the world's attention to a problem that had become literally visible in the Chinese capital. This is what the air looked like two days ago, on Wednesday, as the country's legislature held its annual meeting.
— Xinhua News Agency (@XHNews) January 23, 2013
The mayor of Beijing attempted to explain that his city has made progress. From Xinhua:
At the first session of the 14th Beijing Municipal People's Congress on Tuesday, acting mayor Wang Anshun said in a work report that the density of major pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, has dropped by an average of 29 percent over the past five years.
The high percentage stirred debate among deputies on Wednesday, as the current smog could make residents suspicious over the truthfulness of the figure. Some deputies even advised deleting the reference from the report to avoid disputes from the public.
Wang's data on pollution levels may be questionable, but there is an argument that he could make effectively: It's not all Beijing's fault.