As deadline looms, Christie shows no sign of backing EPA pollution rule

    Monday is the deadline for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to defend an EPA rule limiting cross-state air pollution.

    Last week, Christie applauded the EPA for granting New Jersey’s petition compelling the Portland Generation Station across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania to cut its sulfur dioxide emissions.

    A few days later, he signaled he would likely not defend the federal rule that would require coal-fired plants in 27 states to reduce ozone-creating and particle pollutants.

    Advocates such as David Pringle from the New Jersey Environmental Federation are crying foul.

    “It would be inconsistent for the governor not to support this rule while petitioning the EPA over the Portland plant, which he has done successfully,” Pringle said. “We can’t handle this problem by going after one coal plant at a time. We need to do it much more comprehensively.”

    More than a dozen states to the west and south are suing to prevent the rule from taking effect on Jan. 1. Christie has signaled he will likely not join several states in the Northeast in filing motions backing the rule.

    New Jersey already has some of the most stringent air pollution standards in the country, so the state Department of Environmental Protection said the new rule would have little impact on Garden State power plants. It would cut down on pollutants wafting over from neighboring states, which Pringle said accounts for about a third of the air pollution in the state.

    PSE&G, New Jersey’s largest utility, has joined with Exelon to file motions in support of the suit.

    “It’s very important, for reliability reasons and regulatory certainty, that we have these rules enacted in a timely manner,” said Shannon Maher Banaga, manager of environmental policy at PSE&G. “This isn’t a surprise to industry. This has been going on for at least 10 years in some instances.”

    The DEP generally supports efforts to curb air pollution, but a spokesman said the authority to take legal action for or against the rule lies with the governor.

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