Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Air Apparent In The Supreme Court

With the Supreme Court upholding their 2011 ruling that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions last June, the latest ploy by energy companies to kill regulatory pressure to clean up their acts is to now go after mercury regulations, and the Supreme Court will indeed hear a challenge to those regulations.

The twist this time?  The regulations are too expensive, according to Big Energy.  You know, some of the most profitable companies on Earth.

The basic question in the new case is whether and when the E.P.A. must take regulation costs into account. The agency’s interpretation is that the Clean Air Act, which requires regulations to be “appropriate and necessary,” does not demand that costs be taken into consideration early in the regulatory process.

In the Supreme Court term that ended in June, the justices heard cases filed by industry groups against two of the Obama administration’s environmental regulations — one aimed at limiting power plant pollution that wafts across state lines, the other at cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

The E.P.A. won the first case and largely prevailed in the second, though the Supreme Court indicated that it remained prepared to impose limits on the agency’s regulatory authority.

The case against the mercury pollution rule is likely to be followed by more fights. The E.P.A. on Wednesday will release a regulation to cut ozone pollution. Next year, the agency is scheduled to finalize rules that would slash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Environmental law experts say the Supreme Court’s decision in the mercury case may provide some hints about how those other rules might fare.

“Is this part of a larger trend of the Supreme Court exerting greater authority over E.P.A.’s regulations?” asked Roger R. Martella Jr., a general counsel at the agency during President George W. Bush’s administration. The new case is a challenge by more than 20 states, along with industry groups and energy companies.

The problem here is that a broad ruling in favor of corporations could blow a hole in any regulations issued by the Executive Branch, depending on what SCOTUS defines as "appropriate".  The energy companies (and 20 red states) say that at most, the regulations will only generate a couple million dollars in benefits at the cost of nearly $10 billion.  The EPA says it will save 11,000 lives a year.

We'll see how much of a price tag SCOTUS puts on this, with a ruling expected in June.

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