Chief Justice Hands EPA Win on Air Pollution Rules

By March 24, 2016 No Comments

The Hill, 3 March 2016

“The Supreme Court handed the Obama administration a victory Thursday when Chief Justice John Roberts refused to block a contentious air pollution rule.  Roberts’s order rejecting a plea from a group of 20 states asking the court to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards came despite the court’s 5-4 ruling last year that the regulations were illegal.  Michigan led a group of 20 states last month — empowered by the Supreme Court’s recent unprecedented decision to halt the EPA’s carbon dioxide rule for power plants — in asking the court to live up to its ruling last year and block the regulation’s enforcement.

‘Unless this court stays or enjoins further operation of the Mercury and Air Toxics rule, this court’s recent decision in Michigan v. EPA will be thwarted,’ the states wrote in a Feb. 23 filing with the court.  A stay or injunction is appropriate because this court has already held that the finding on which the rule rests in unlawful and beyond EPA’s statutory authority.’

The EPA responded that no judicial stay is necessary since it’s working to fix the problem the court identified by next month, and the states would not suffer irreparable harm in that time.

‘The requested stay would harm the public interest by undermining reliance interests and the public health and environmental benefits associated with the rule,’ the government said.

‘The application lacks merit and should be denied.’  Roberts acted swiftly, waiting less than a day after the EPA’s response brief to side with the Obama administration.  He acted unilaterally, electing to reject the request himself rather than take it to the full court, which may have led to a 4-4 split following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

The mercury pollution standards, made final in 2012, are a separate regulation from the more controversial and costly carbon dioxide limits for power plants that are also being litigated in court.  The Supreme Court put an unprecedented halt to the carbon rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, last month by a 5-4 vote, when Roberts chose to let the full court vote on the matter. Thursday’s action by Roberts is completely separate from that case.  EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said on Thursday the agency is ‘very pleased’ with Roberts’s order.”

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