Chief Justice John Roberts today denied an attempt to block, or “stay,” a contentious air pollution rule for power plants.
Roberts’s order represents a big win for the Obama administration’s climate agenda. Last year the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards is illegal, sending it back to the DC Circuit Court and instructing the agency to consider the costs the regulation would impose on utilities.
Robert’s decision also follows the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling last month to grant a highly unusual emergency stay of the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon emissions from power plants.
Last week a group of 20 attorney generals let by Michigan asked the Supreme Court to stay the mercury pollution rules. The Environmental Defense Fund and other environmental groups, along with 15 states and health advocacy organizations such as the American Lung Association, opposed the stay application.
The DC Circuit Court unanimously rejected requests for a stay in December. At the time, the court ruled that the EPA is allowed to enforce the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards while it works to address the Supreme Court’s concern about the cost of the regulation and whether it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollution from power plants.
The EPA has issued a proposed supplemental finding that considers costs and says it is “appropriate and necessary” to establish emissions standards for toxic air pollution. The agency expects to complete its proposed supplemental finding by mid-April.
By rejecting the state’s request for stay, rather than taking the application to the full court, Roberts likely avoided a 4-4 split because of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and the vacancy on the court.
The EPA initially issued the standards in late 2011 and said they would cut mercury pollution by 90 percent. In 2012, the agency agreed to review those limits after a challenge by industry before finalizing the pollution regulations a year later.
Photo Credit: coal power plant via Shutterstock