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Obama scores clean air victory with help of Supreme Court

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/30/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Federal rules regarding coal-fired power plants in 28 states upheld

It's being viewed as an uncommon environmental victory in a conservative majority court. The Supreme Court has in recent years generally sided against the federal government's nationwide clean air policies. The high court has voted to uphold federal rules concerning coal-powered power plants in 28 states; a rare victory for the Obama administration's green policies.

Leaders in some mostly conservative states say lost jobs and higher energy costs are at stake from what they see as arbitrary and ambiguously enforced regulations.

Leaders in some mostly conservative states say lost jobs and higher energy costs are at stake from what they see as arbitrary and ambiguously enforced regulations.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
4/30/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Supreme Court, coal-powered power plants, federal regulations


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A 6-2 majority of the justices which upheld the previous regulations.

The justices were presented with a complex decision. Whether an "upwind" state that is polluting a "downwind" state is free of any obligations under the so-called Good Neighbor provision. This decision would be followed through -- unless and until federal regulators have quantified the upwind state's contribution to downwind state's air pollution problems.

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Seen as an important test of federal regulatory power, the rules were issued two years ago by the Environmental Protection Agency. The ruling was challenged by a coalition of 15 states, as well as several energy companies and labor unions.

Leaders in some mostly conservative states say lost jobs and higher energy costs are at stake from what they see as arbitrary and ambiguously enforced regulations.

The White House along with its environmental allies say that Americans' health should come first, and that as many as 45,000 deaths could be prevented each year if the Cross-State Pollution Rule would be allowed to take effect.

The high court agreed, to a large extent. "The Good Neighbor Provision, in our view, entrusts interpretive authority to EPA," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. "We are satisfied that EPA's construction of the statute reasonably responded to a perplexing problem the statute itself does not resolve."

A coalition of eight of nine governors from the affected downwind states, just before the court's December arguments, signed a petition urging the EPA to force nine southern and Midwestern upwind states to reduce smog and soot emissions from power plants.

The one downwind governor who did not sign was New Jersey's Chris Christie. Democratic or Independent governors criticized an earlier federal appeals court ruling against federal oversight, saying it "allows upwind states to postpone the costs of air pollution controls for years, while in the interim downwind states and their residents are forced to suffer the present consequences of that pollution."

Enforcement of what is known as the Transport Rule was adopted by the EPA in 2011, but remained on hold while the court cases worked toward conclusion. It was later agreed that the agency be allowed to put the revised regulations in place.

The justices have yet to issue a ruling in another related and closely watched environmental case: can the EPA tighten emission standards for "stationary" greenhouse gas sources, such as power plants in what the government says is an effort to stem the effects of global warming.

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