Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Supreme Court Upholds Crossstate Air Pollution Rule

The Supreme Court in a 6-2 decision Tuesday upheld a rule that allows the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution from power plants that crosses state lines.  The rule requires 28 states in the East, Midwest, and South to cut back on sulfur and nitrogen emissions from coal-fired power plants that “contribute significantly” to air problems in other states.

Under the Clean Air Act, the Good Neighbor provision gives the EPA the authority to regulate interstate pollution that interferes with the country’s ability to maintain or achieve national air quality standards, which protect public health.

Ginsburg was joined in her written opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, while Justice Samuel Alito recused himself from the case.

The EPA finalized the pollution rule in 2011, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down last year, after a challenge from 15 upwind states and utilities.
Opponents of the regulation argued that, until the EPA fills in the blank on what “contribute significantly” means, they cannot adequately regulate or enforce the pollution rule, leaving states to guess.  But the EPA contended that the rule allows states three years to form their own implementation plan while giving upwind states flexibility.

Once fully implemented, the pollution rule is expected to help cut back the “one in 20 deaths in the U.S., 200,000 non-fatal heart attacks and 90,000 hospital admissions” a year that are a result of ozone exposure and fine particle emissions, according to the EPA.  It is also estimated that the rule will save people across the designated states billions of dollars in annual health and environmental costs.  (The Hill, 4/20/2014)

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