Friday, March 04, 2016

Chief justice refuses to block EPA's mercury rule

"In a significant victory for the Obama administration, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Thursday refused to block an Environmental Protection Agency regulation limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants," Adam Liptak and Coral Davenport report for The New York Times. "The decision comes three weeks after the full Supreme Court, in a highly unusual move, blocked another major Obama administration rule that would limit planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution from coal plants. The order was issued solely by Chief Justice Roberts, who did not refer the question to the full court."

Roberts "rejected an application from 20 states that said a federal appeals court in Washington had effectively thwarted their victory in the Supreme Court in June, when the justices ruled that the EPA had failed to take into account the punishing costs its mercury regulation would impose," Liptak and Davenport write. "In that 5-to-4 decision, Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, the Supreme Court ruled that the agency had run afoul of the Clean Air Act by deciding to regulate the emissions without first undertaking a cost-benefit analysis to show the regulation to be 'appropriate and necessary.'"

"In December, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit allowed the mercury regulation to stay in place while the agency completed its review, noting that it 'is on track to issue a final finding' by April 15," Liptak and Davenport write.
Legal experts said Roberts' decision "signaled that they might not be successful in further attempts to halt environmental rules while they are still subject to legal challenges," Liptak and Davenport write. "In their Supreme Court brief, the states said blocking the mercury regulation 'is even more warranted' than the halt to the climate change plan, because the Supreme Court had already decided that the agency had exceeded its authority. The mercury regulation, the states said, 'has imposed literally billions of dollars of compliance costs on utilities.'”

Legal exports said "blocking the mercury rule would have had little practical impact, because most electric utilities have already put it into effect," Liptak and Davenport write. "Industry groups estimate that it has already led to the closing of about 100 coal-fired power plants. EPA has estimated that the rule will impose about $9.6 billion annually in costs to industry as they either clean up or close down coal plants." (Read more)

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