EPA victory – SCOTUS won’t block mercury rules for coal power plants

  • Published on June 13th, 2016

By Meteor Blades

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of those challenging the Obama administration’s rule Power plants will have to comply with EPA rule on curtailing mercuryestablishing its mercury and air toxics standard (MATS). The court majority decided in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency that the EPA had failed to consider the costs of compliance before it finalized the rule. But the court did not throw out the rule itself. Instead, it returned the case to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. In December, that court decided to let the EPA keep enforcing the rule while it dealt with the costs matter.

On Monday, the Supreme Court chose not to review the Circuit Court’s decision.

It was a major victory for the Obama administration and environmental advocates and a defeat for Michigan Attorney General William Schuette, who had brought both cases to the Supreme Court. As usual, the court rarely comments on why it rejects a case. Timothy Cama reports:

“These practical and achievable standards cut harmful pollution from power plants, saving thousands of lives each year and preventing heart and asthma attacks,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in a statement.

“Power plants are the largest source of mercury in the United States. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage children’s developing nervous systems, reducing their ability to think and learn.”

Although it did not rely on its cost-benefits findings to establish the MATS rule, the EPA has conducted a cost-benefit analysis that meets the regulatory review requirement of the Office of Management and Budget. The analysis concludes that health benefits will rise to $37-90 billion a year, far exceeding the estimated $9.6 billion in compliance costs.

 Included in those benefits are 11,000 lives saved and hundreds of thousands of ailments avoided annually because of reduced levels of fine particles, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. The rule’s challengers last year argued that these “co-benefits” should not be included. But the majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said “It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost.”

The ruling on MATS initially worried advocates of other EPA rules, those designed under the Clean Power Plan to curtail carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants that burn coal or natural gas. But Monday’s ruling is encouraging. Last year, the EPA released its cost-benefit analysis showing the carbon standards would produce health benefits in the range of $55 to $93 billion per year by 2030, compared to costs of $7.3 to $8.8 billion.

(Originally appeared at DailyKos. Image CC by Dave Johnson.)

About the Author

Meteor Blades is a writer and contributing editor at DailyKos. He believes there is something profoundly wrong with our system. - the unchecked accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of a very small group of corporate business interests has contributed to the wholesale corruption of our political system. For an understanding about the level of corruption in our country, he encourages you to view these two PBS documentaries: (1). ,The Untouchables; (2) The United States of ALEC.