The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a major Environmental Protection Agency regulation that forces states to limit air pollution that drifts across state lines, which could result in even more regulations on the coal industry.
Justices sided with the EPA in a 6 to 2 decision, saying that the agency’s rule that states should regulate smog and soot emissions from power plants did not violate the Clean Air Act, reversing a lower court decision striking down the rule.
“In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the majority opinion. “EPA’s cost-effective allocation of emission reductions among upwind States, we hold, is a permissible, workable, and equitable interpretation of the Good Neighbor Provision.”
The court’s decision was cheered by the EPA and environmentalists, who argued it was a victory for public health.
“This is great news for millions of people who suffer from serious health problems caused by the soot and smog-causing pollution from power plants in other states,” said John Walke, director of the Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Implementation of these long overdue protections will prevent thousands of premature deaths and save tens of billions of dollars a year in health costs.”
Republicans and the coal industry have blasted the decision, saying it imposes huge burdens on power producers and lessens states’ ability to set its own environmental standards. Fourteen states and several power companies sued the EPA over the rule, saying it put undue burdens on some states without regard to their actual contribution to cross-state air pollution.
“Upholding this rule will place a great deal of stress on Texas’ electricity grid,” said Texas Republican Rep. Pete Olson. “When EPA issued the original rule, at least two Texas plants were scheduled for closure, now that the final rule has been upheld, we must prepare for plant closures and further strains on reliability.”
The EPA implemented its so-called Cross-State Air Pollution (CSAPR) in 2011. The rule required 28 Midwestern and Southern states to reduce air pollution emissions that were drifting into the air space of states along the East Coast.