U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Obama's EPA Limits on Air Pollution

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down new rules for America’s biggest air polluters on Monday, dealing a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to set limits on the amount of mercury, arsenic and other toxins coal-fired power plants can spew into the air, lakes and rivers.


The 5-4 decision was a major setback to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and could leave the agency more vulnerable to legal challenges from industry and Republican-led states to its new carbon pollution rules.

It was also a blow to years of local efforts to clean up dangerous air pollution.

The justices embraced the arguments from the industry and 21 Republican-led states that the EPA rules were prohibitively expensive and amounted to government overreach.

RELATED: GOP Congressman Lamar Smith Declares War on NASA and EPA Climate Science Research

The decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that the EPA did not reasonably consider the cost factor when drafting regulation.

The Clean Air Act had directed the EPA to create regulations for power plants that were “appropriate and necessary”. The agency did not consider cost when making its decision, the court ruled, but estimated that the cost of its regulation to power plants would be $9.6bn a year.

Scalia was joined by the conservative members of the bench. The dissent, written by Elena Kagan, was supported by Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor.

RELATED: By Fighting EPA Rules, Congress Thinks Your Life Is Worth Less Than $3,800

The landmark decision closes a chapter on a two-decade-long effort to force stricter emissions standards for coal-fired power plants.

The regulation, adopted in 2012, would have affected about 600 coal-fired power plants across the country — many of which are concentrated in the midwest and the south.

It was already going into effect across the country. But Republican governors and power companies challenged the EPA’s authority, saying the agency had mishandled estimates of the cost of the new rules.

RELATED: EPA Moves to Regulate Airplane Emissions Under Clean Air Act, Citing Danger to Human Health

The EPA and campaigners have argued that the public health costs posed by the toxic air pollutants outweighed those to utility companies forced to fit new control equipment.

TWITTER REACTS:

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close