Supreme Court Blocks Obama Administration Plan On Power Plant Emissions

The Supreme court has ruled against an Obama administration effort to limit toxic mercury emissions from power plants, saying the costs of compliance with regulation should be taken into account.

In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with industry and 23 states that challenged the Environmental Protection Agency over the rules for oil- and coal-fired utilities, which the EPA estimated would cost $9.6 billion dollars annually. The states and industry groups said the cost estimate far outweighed the benefits the rules would produce, estimated at $4 million to $6 million per year.

The courts majority agreed, saying the EPA interpreted the regulation “unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants.”

NPR’s Nina Totenberg has this background on the case, Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency:

“The regulations have been in the works for nearly two decades. Work on them began in the Clinton administration, got derailed in the George W. Bush administration, and then were revived and adopted in the Obama administration.

“The regulations were subsequently upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., last year.

“They stem from 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, which ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to expedite limits on power plant emissions of mercury and 188 other dangerous air pollutants.

“Mercury is considered one of the most toxic pollutants because studies show that when it falls from the atmosphere, it readily passes from fish and other sources to a pregnant woman’s unborn fetus and the fetal brain, causing neurological abnormalities and delays in children. The EPA estimated that 7 percent of American women of childbearing age — millions of women — were being exposed to the pollutant in dangerous amounts.”

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