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W.Va. Officials Applaud Supreme Court Ruling Against EPA's Mercury/Air Toxics Standards

Harry Schaefer, Environmental Protection Agency
wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court has ruled against federal regulators' attempt to limit power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants.

The rules began to take effect in April, but the court said by a 5-4 vote this week that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to take their cost into account when the agency first decided to regulate the toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired plants.


The challenge was brought by industry groups and 21 states.

Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia  said it is not appropriate to impose billions of dollars of economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits.

The case now goes back to lower courts for the EPA to decide how to account for costs.

West Virginia joined a bipartisan group of 21 States, led by Michigan, to challenge the rule, arguing the EPA improperly confined its focus to health and environmental risks, and ignored what it would cost the industry to comply with this broad new regulations.

Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore-Capito joined with Governor Tomblin in applauding the court’s decision.


"As we have maintained for years, the Environmental Protection Agency far too often fails to consider the impact its mandates have on jobs and the economies of both our state and our nation. I'm pleased with today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling and hope that it encourages those making these unreasonable decisions to reconsider their plans not only for mercury emissions but the unreasonable restrictions this administration wants to put on existing power plants." 


“Today’s Supreme Court ruling sends a strong signal to the EPA that it must stop ignoring the economic damage its regulations are causing to our energy sector and our economy. By forcing dozens of coal-fired power plants to close, the EPA’s job-killing regulations have already had a devastating impact on jobs, energy prices, the reliability of our power supply, our coal mining industry and most importantly our families in West Virginia and across this nation. The EPA continues to impose regulations one after another regardless of the impact on our economy, and I applaud the Supreme Court for recognizing that the agency must take costs into account.

“All West Virginians and Americans want to drink clean water and breathe clean air, and over the past 20 years, our state has always been willing to do its part to find solutions. All we are asking for is a partner and not an adversary in the federal government to work with states like West Virginia that produce domestic resources to make this country less dependent on foreign energy and more secure as a nation. This ruling is an important step to rein in this out-of-control agency, and I am hopeful that, in the coming weeks, the court will also recognize that the EPA has again overreached with the Clean Power Plan in order to prevent the loss of a million jobs, an increase in utility rates, and more damage to our economy.”


“Today’s Supreme Court ruling confirms what we have long known in West Virginia: the MATS rule is unlawful and failed to consider the devastating impacts on our economy. While today’s ruling is encouraging, many West Virginians have already suffered the effects of EPA’s misguided MATS rule with job layoffs, numerous mine closures and electricity rate increases occurring throughout the state. Going forward, states should not be forced to bear the brunt of other costly EPA regulations before legal challenges are complete. I will continue to work with my colleagues to advance policies that protect reliable and affordable energy, put jobs and our economy first and curb federal overreach.”

The American Lung Association:

“We regret the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to remand these landmark clean air standards that had already begun to reduce toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants in more than 40 states. As a result of this decision, millions of Americans, including children, risk continued exposure to toxic air pollutants that can cause cancer, harm the lungs and even kill. Unfortunately, they will continue to bear the real costs here—the life-long burden of these poisons in the air they breathe.

“We urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to begin immediately to address the issues raised by the Court to ensure that these protections are fully implemented with no further gap in protections that have been overdue by more than 20 years already.

“Prior to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the air pollution from coal-fired power plants contained 84 of the 187 hazardous pollutants identified for control by the Clean Air Act. When fully implemented, the standards would have reduced these pollutants and prevent 130,000 childhood asthma attacks and 11,000 premature deaths each year.

“We will work to ensure the final, full implementation of these lifesaving standards to protect the public from these dangerous toxics.”  

The state’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says that if the EPA ignores the Supreme Court’s warning today and continues to press forward with these rules, his office will challenge those rules in court again.

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