A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court, voting 2-1 on partisan lines, has struck down the EPA’s “good neighbor” air pollution rule, which attempted to protect Eastern states from upwind pollution from Midwest and Southern states via tougher pollution laws.

A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down a key Obama administration air pollution rule meant to protect Eastern residents from polluters in neighboring states, saying that the Environmental Protection Agency must grant states more time to implement protections.

The ruling by two George W. Bush appointees covers the “good neighbor rule” issued by the EPA in mid-2011 to regulate emissions of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides, the main ingredients in soot and smog.

The rule is one of several federal efforts to arbitrate a long-standing regional dispute between coal-powered, lightly regulated states mainly in the South and Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic and New England states where the toxic emissions wind up on account of prevailing winds [...]

In a 2-1 decision, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA had overstepped its authority by issuing federal pollution standards before states had a chance to develop their own and by calling for emissions reductions greater than the court’s majority considered necessary. Led by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the court vacated the rule and ordered the EPA to develop a new one, leaving in its place a Bush-era regulation.

This is a clear example of the power of federal judicial appointments. Two George W. Bush appointees at the DC Circuit Court just rolled back pollution regulations to the George W. Bush parameters. As a result, according to the EPA’s statistics, 30,000 Americans will die prematurely, hundreds of thousands will fall ill, and 240 million will be exposed to increased emissions of pollutants.

Court appointments matter a great deal. And a combination of unprecedented Senate obstructionism and needless delays from the White House in naming appointees has a deleterious effect.

The ruling could have implications on other EPA regulations, especially as it values state anti-pollution laws above the federal government. Environmentalists want the EPA to appeal, possibly to a full panel of the Circuit Court, but of course then it eventually gets kicked up to the Supreme Court. The last SCOTUS rulings on greenhouse gas emissions have been favorable, but the good neighbor rule covers other forms of pollution, and really attempts to resolve a dispute between the states, so you could easily see a different outcome.

In other EPA news, the agency will seek public input on a waiver to the ethanol mandate, which has become controversial during this time of record drought and a corn shortage. Governors in four livestock-heavy states have asked the EPA to suspend the ethanol rule, which they say artificially spikes the price of corn, used by livestock producers for feed. 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol must be made from corn this year under the renewable fuels standard. The EPA has until November 13 to make a decision.