I've been keeping an eye on the Supreme Court case of Michigan v. EPA. This case consisted of several states contesting EPA regulatory procedures concerning emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants. The Supreme Court granted a hearing on the case limited to the question of whether the EPA "unreasonably refused to consider costs to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities."
The EPA argued in its written filing that costs do not come into play in the first part of the regulatory process, stating the agency "concluded that costs are not relevant to the decision whether to regulate such emissions, but that costs should instead be taken into account when setting emission standards."
Michigan and 20 other states objected to the wording in the Clean Air Act that states, "The Administrator shall regulate electric utility steam generating units under this section, if the Administrator finds such regulation is appropriate and necessary after considering the results of the study required by this subparagraph." The states argued in their written filings that the word "appropriate" in the sentence is ambiguous and that it renders the EPA "free to find it appropriate to regulate without any regard for the regulations cost."
The Court's decision was released today (June 29) and, by a 5-4 vote, it sided with the states, stating the EPA unreasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act when it set standards.
What does this mean for the Clean Air Act? Really, the only thing it means is the EPA must take one more step and do that much more paperwork in the regulatory process. That means more expense to the taxpayers and that much more time the fossil fuel industry will be allowed to pollute the environment and the public. Of course, the climate is the ultimate loser, which means more damage and suffering by humans, especially the poor.
Will the EPA be back with the regulations? Based on what I read, I believe so. The states, using data from the fossil fuel industry, have stated EPA regulations would achieve $4-6 million worth of health benefits a year by reducing hazardous air pollutants, but would cost the industry $9.6 billion yearly to achieve. But, interestingly, the EPA states the benefits would exceed costs $27 billion to $80 billion (in 2007 dollars). Using the EPA's numbers, regulation would be exceedingly appropriate.