Last week’s progressive winning streak at the Supreme Court ended Monday as SCOTUS ruled on regulations about emissions of mercury and other toxic substances from power plants. The regs went into effect about two months ago. The high court sent the EPA rules back to a lower court (D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals) for review. The MATS rules pursuant to the Clean Air Act had been almost 20 years in the making.
The high court found that EPA neglected to account for the enormous costs of the rule (reportedly over $9 billion per year for a total of 460 coal-fired power plants) in a timely fashion. EPA did actually end up calculating the anticipated costs and some overwhelming benefits of the rule, but not soon enough for the nation’s top court.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the 5-4 majority in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-46, stated:
“It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. Statutory context supports this reading.”
Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent on th EPA rules:
“The agency acted well within its authority in declining to consider costs at the opening bell of the regulatory process, given that it would do so in every round thereafter—and given that the emissions limits finally issued would depend crucially on those accountings.”
However, says Keith Johnson, a senior reporter covering energy for Foreign Policy, “The judicial setback might actually hide a silver lining, by clearing the legal path for even more ambitious rules to fight climate change.”
The appeals court will reconsider the EPA rules case. Coal shares rose at the news, according to Jennifer Macdonald of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. However, because many American power plants already installed or have plans for scrubbers to diminish emissions in anticipation of the regs, the effect of delaying or scrapping the rule may turn out to be minimal, Johnson says.
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:
I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...