Saturday, June 18, 2016

250.2 - Good News: Supreme Court upholds restrictions on mercury pollution

Good News: Supreme Court upholds restrictions on mercury pollution

We also have some Good News for the environment along with another indication of the unusual importance of the Supreme Court this election.

Start by taking one step back: The White House's Clean Power Plan is intended to take a step against global warming by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide from existing power plants by about a third by 2030. It's still in the planning stages but it includes a regulation requiring states to submit plans for shifting away from fossil-fuel power plants and toward alternative energy.

In February, in one of the last decisions of which Justice Antonin Skeletor was part, the Supreme Court made the almost unprecedented move of stepping in to block that part of the regulations even though it had not been reviewed by a lower court. That this was the result of a divided Court is clear from the fact that four justices - Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan - objected to the stay.

Fast forward to June 13 and we find the Scalia-less Supreme Court refusing to take up an appeal from 20 states to block federal environmental regulations that limit the emissions of mercury and other harmful pollutants that are byproducts of burning coal.

Coal-burning power plants, in addition to their other impacts, are the nation's largest source of human-made mercury pollution, but the states argued that the benefits of the rule do not measure up against the costs. However, in April the EPA, after revising the way it calculated the costs, concluded that "for every dollar spent to make these cuts, the public is receiving up to $9 in health benefits."

This is not, technically, the end of the matter since those new cost-benefit figures are subject to challenge, but since many utilities have already complied with the new requirements, the claim that they are unaffordable would seem to have lost a lot of punch.

Which just leaves one question for those 20 states: Are you advocates for the health of your citizens or the profits of your paymasters in the energy industry?

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