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US Supreme Court Blocks Mercury Emissions Rule

Leigh Paterson

Today the US Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency in a suit that challenged one of the Obama administrations most ambitious environmental plans. 

The question at the heart of the case was this: should the EPA have considered cost before issuing a rule designed to cut mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. In the 5-4 decision, justices ruled in favor of the states and industry groups that brought the suit essentially saying yes, the EPA should have considered cost. 

In a statement, EPA press secretary Melissa Harrison expressed disappointment at the ruling:

"But this rule was issued more than three years ago, investments have been made and most plants are already well on their way to compliance. Since the decision was about how and when the Agency considered costs in its decision that mercury and air toxic emissions from power plants threaten public health and the environment, and not EPA’s Clean Air Act authority to limit hazardous air pollutants, EPA remains committed to ensuring that appropriate standards are in place to protect the public from the significant amount of toxic emissions from coal and oil-fired electric utilities and continue reducing the toxic pollution from these facilities."

Senator John Barrasso also reacted to the verdict in a statement:

"While this ruling is a welcome rebuke of the Obama administration’s runaway EPA, it’s too late for many Americans who work at coal plants that have already been negatively impacted by this rule."  

"Going forward, this ruling should serve as a check against future actions by this administration to roll out new costly red tape—including the so-called ‘clean power plan.’ Republicans will continue to use every tool we have to stop regulations that will crush jobs, harm public health, and increase energy prices for American families."

While many power plants have complied by investing in the necessary technology to reduce mercury emissions, some have shut-down since the rule was put in place.  

Email: lpaterson@insideenergy.org; leighpaterson@rmpbs.org
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