U.S. Supreme Court upholds EPA’s ‘good neighbor’ rule to curb air pollution

The U. S. Supreme Court upheld The EPA’s Good Neighbor Rule on Tuesday, a rule that will systematically and efficiently cut pollution from dozens of coal-fired power plants that would otherwise spread air pollution across the country to neigboring states downwind.

carbon-emissionsThe Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor” provision (section 110(a)(2)(D)(i)(I)) gives EPA the power to cut down interstate pollution that interferes with the attainment and maintenance of the national ambient air quality standards protecting public health. EPA is using that power in this new rule, which is officially called the Air Pollution Transport Rule, to remedy ongoing violations of the 1997 ozone standards, and the 1997 and 2007 fine-particle (PM2.5) standards.

The New York Times reports, Justices Back Rule Limiting Coal Pollution:

In a major victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the smog from coal plants that drifts across state lines from 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast.

The 6-to-2 ruling bolsters the centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the regulations, which use the Clean Air Act as their legal authority, as a “war on coal.” The industry has waged an aggressive legal battle to undo the rules.

Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signals that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could withstand legal challenges.

In June, the E.P.A. is expected to propose a sweeping new Clean Air Act regulation to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that scientists say is the chief cause of climate change. Coal plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

“It’s a big win for the E.P.A., and not just because it has to do with this rule,” said Jody Freeman, director of the environmental law program at Harvard. “It’s the fact that it’s setting the stage and creating momentum for what’s to come.”

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The Supreme Court decision is only the latest blow to coal. Also on Tuesday, a Federal District Court ordered the E.P.A. to propose by Dec. 1 a new nationwide regulation to rein in smog pollution from coal-fired power plants and other major polluters. This rule would come on top of the regulation covering cross-state air pollution.

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Two weeks ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld another major E.P.A. Clean Air Act rule that would cut coal-plant pollution from mercury.

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The interstate air pollution regulation, also known as the “good neighbor” rule, has pitted Rust Belt and Appalachian states like Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky against East Coast states like New York and Connecticut.

In its arguments before the court, the E.P.A. said the rules were necessary to protect the health and the environment of downwind states. East Coast states in particular are vulnerable to pollution blown by the prevailing west-to-east winds of the United States. The soot and smog produced by coal plants are linked to asthma, lung disease and premature death.

In her decision, Justice Ginsburg noted that in reining in interstate pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind. “Some pollutants stay within upwind states’ borders, the wind carries others to downwind states, and some subset of that group drifts to states without air quality problems,” she wrote, adding a biblical quotation from the Book of John: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.”

Just how unhinged were the Court’s two far-right conservatives, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — Scalia And Thomas were guests of the Koch brothers at their annual event for Plutocrats — in their dissent? “Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, said the regulation was unwieldy and suggested it was Marxist.” Marxist? These guys are parodies of every unhinged right-wing troll in the conservative media entertainment complex.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. recused himself from the case.

Naturally, Tea-Publicans in Congress denounced the Court’s decision. It undermines their years long GOPropaganda crusade against the Obama administration’s supposed “war on coal.” Now they will have to attack the conservative activist U.S. Supreme Court (Justices Roberts and Kennedy were in the majority).

Governors from East Coast states have for more than 15 years been subject to tougher air pollution requirements than other parts of the country.

The East Coast governors have long criticized the Appalachian and Rust Belt states for their more lenient rules on pollution from coal plants, factories and tailpipes — allowing those state economies to profit from cheap energy while their smog and soot have been carried eastward by prevailing winds.

It’s time that these states start acting like “good neighbors,” instead of being a nuisance.

The Opinion in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation is Here (.pdf).

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