U.S. Supreme Court overturns EPA air pollution rule

In a 5-4 ruling Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark air quality rule.

In their decision, the court stated that the EPA did not properly consider the costs of the regulation and that the agency should have taken cost of utilities and others in the power industry into account before even deciding whether to set limits for the toxic air pollutants it regulated in the 2011 Clean Air Act.

“The government concedes that if the agency were to find that emissions from power plants do damage to human health, but that the technologies needed to eliminate these emissions do even more damage to human health, it would still deem regulation appropriate,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “No regulation is ‘appropriate’ if it does significantly more harm than good.”

The case, Michigan v. EPA, centered on EPA regulations that would prohibit some plants from emitting toxic chemicals, including mercury. Because the EPA regulations were issued three years ago and the majority of the rule went into effect in April, an EPA spokesperson noted Monday that many in the power sector have already started the process of implementing new practices to comply with the rule.

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, issued a statement Monday afternoon welcoming the high court’s ruling and stating that the agencies regulations often hurt middle-class families in Kentucky the most.

“While much of the damage of this regulation has already been done, the ruling serves as a critical reminder to every governor contemplating the administration’s demands to impose more regressive – and likely illegal – regulations that promise even more middle-class pain,” McConnell said in the statement. “Clearly, there is no reason to subject their states to such unnecessary pain before the courts have even had a chance to weigh in, especially if the Supreme Court simply ends up tossing the regulation out as we saw today.”

The Kentucky Chamber has been opposed to the EPA regulations in the 2011 Clean Air Act.

Another EPA regulation making its way through the courts, the Clean Power Plan, asks states to create their own plans to comply with the federal carbon dioxide regulations. Kentucky is currently involved in a lawsuit against the regulations as Attorney General Jack Conway has signed on to the legal challenge.

The next governor of Kentucky will have to decide whether or not the state will submit a compliance plan or be subject to a blanket federal plan.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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