Green Cities

Supreme Court Moves Against the EPA

In 2011, the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards began under the Clean Air Act. The standards included key regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that required power plants to reduce mercury pollution—linked in multiple studies to respiratory illnesses, as well as birth defects and developmental problems in children. The EPA has the authority to regulate power plants under this program only if it concludes that “regulation is appropriate and necessary,” after studying hazards to public health posed by power-plant emissions. In the recent Supreme Court Case, Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, the regulations were challenged by 23 states and various companies under the idea that the agency did not consider all the costs of its new regulations on mercury emissions. In the 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule arguing that the agency must consider costs from the very start of the regulatory process, not just after it has determined whether a regulation is justified. This being said, there are many detailed studies regarding the EPA’s decision, highlighting the overwhelming benefits of regulation both financially and environmentally. In the EPA conclusion, mercury regulation would be found to cost $9.6 billion and provide benefits of between $37 billion and $90 billion, which seem to be “regulation [that] is appropriate and necessary”. But what does this ultimately mean for the victors? In fact, this decision does not do very much in the long run for the 23 states and companies that created the case. The decision merely states that the EPA did not take everything to account when creating their regulations meaning that there might need to be some changes. Although this means that the implementation of the law cannot be carried out at the moment because it is in a legal knot, the decision does not state that the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards is wrong or that is should be stopped. Rather, the current case will go back to the D.C. Circuit court for further consideration and a possible final ruling. Cyrus Crevits, Intern