Are There Broader Implications of the Supreme Court’s EPA Ruling?

“In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury and air toxics standards, charging that the administration failed to adequately consider the estimated $10 billion it would cost utilities to dramatically cut power plant pollution to comply with the measure,” reported The Washington Times yesterday.

While the question has been raised about the broader implications of the court’s decision on other EPA regulations, CEI’s William Yeatman, says there is not much broad impact.

As Reuter’s Lawrence Hurley reported:

"’The agency must consider cost – including, most importantly, cost of compliance – before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary,’ Scalia wrote.

“The EPA says the rule, which went into effect in April, applies to about 1,400 electricity-generating units at 600 power plants. Many are already in compliance, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

“The legal rationale adopted by the court is unlikely to have broader implications for other environmental regulations, including the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan that would cut carbon emissions from existing power plants, according to lawyers following the case.

“William Yeatman, a fellow at the conservative-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the impact is ‘circumscribed’ due to the ‘narrowness and uniqueness’ of the legal provision the court was examining.”

As Kate Sheppard points out at The Huffington Post, the lower court now has the opportunity to revisit the case, meaning the rule could still go forward even as the EPA adheres to the Supreme Court’s decision.

She writes:

“Environmental advocates say they have two reasons to be hopeful: The lower court could still allow the rules for mercury and air toxics to go forward while the Environmental Protection Agency readjusts them in response to the Supreme Court's decision, and the decision doesn't necessarily have negative implications for the rest of the administration's sweeping power plant standards.”

But Yeatman sees things differently:

“Critics of the EPA regulations were more inclined to see the Supreme Court decision as a fatal blow, projecting that the circuit court would likely block the restrictions if the EPA has to reassess the upfront costs.

‘How can you leave step two in place if you are saying you have to go back to step one, presumably?’ said William Yeatman, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.”