Court rules with EPA on power-plant pollution controls

Imagine that gavel sound from Law & Order, and here we go: In 1999, the U.S. EPA sued Cinergy Corp. for modifying several coal-fueled power plants without following Clean Air Act pollution-control requirements. (Moment of silence for the days when eco-laws were enforced.) One month before President Clinton left office, Cinergy agreed to settle. Then, when the Bush administration said it would review Clinton-era enforcement cases, the company backed out, prompting a follow-up suit from three Eastern states. Cinergy (since acquired by Duke Energy) argued that hourly emissions rates had not risen in the modified plants, which exempted them from stricter pollution controls. But yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled that emissions must be measured by yearly total instead of hourly rate — so plants can’t emit more by operating longer hours. The case will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, where a decision could apply to 17,000 industrial plants across the nation. Gavel sound, and commercial break — but not, for once, a break for industry.