By June 30, 2015 Read More →

Supreme Court mercury ruling may undercut climate rules

Supreme Court mercury ruling says EPA failed to account for industry costs in regulations

Supreme Court mercury

Supreme Court mercury ruling emboldened opponents of President Obama’s climate change agenda. ¬† photo.

Sweeping pollution limits at the centre of President Barack Obama’s climate change plan are facing increased scrutiny in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that showed that the justices aren’t afraid to thwart perceived overreach by Obama or his Environmental Protection Agency.

The high court’s ruling undermined Obama administration regulations targeting mercury and other hazardous air pollutants,¬†a different set of regulations from the greenhouse gas limits that Obama is counting on to slow the effects of global warming. Still, the court’s willingness to rein in the EPA emboldened opponents of Obama’s climate change agenda, who said the court had finally awakened to what they call the haphazard and costly nature of the environmental regulations that Obama has put forth.

Mike Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which lobbies for the coal industry, said he hoped that following Monday’s ruling, the EPA would withdraw its pending greenhouse gas rules.

“If they don’t, I’m sure we’ll be seeing them in court again very soon,” Duncan said.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the EPA failed to account properly for the costs to industry when it first decided to regulate mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired plants. The decision sends the case back to a lower court while leaving the rules in place, but industry advocates say it’s largely too late. That’s because many power plants shuttered while others installed costly upgrades in order to comply with the rule, which took effect in April.

Yet the mercury rules, while an important part of Obama’s environmental legacy, pale in comparison to the unprecedented carbon dioxide limits for power plants that the White House is expected to finalize in August. Obama is counting on drastic emissions reductions from those rules to meet the U.S. commitment to a major global climate treaty that Obama has been championing.

In developing the carbon dioxide rules, the EPA did take into account the anticipated cost to industry, $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion. EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said the agency has long considered cost when writing rules based on the section of the Clean Air Act that’s being used to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

“There is no reason that this court ruling should have any impact on the ability of the administration to develop and implement the Clean Power Plan,” added White House press secretary Josh Earnest, using the administration’s nickname for the carbon rules.

The Associated Press

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