Energy

EPA Asks SCOTUS To Dismiss States’ Motion Halting Pricey Mercury Rule

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

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Chris White Tech Reporter

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the Supreme Court that a motion brought by 20 states pushing to place a halt on new, pricey environmental regulations on mercury and air pollution for power plants should be thrown out.

“The requested stay would harm the public interest by undermining reliance interests and the public health and environmental benefits associated with the rule,” the government argued in a Wednesday brief with the Supreme Court. “The application lacks merit and should be denied.”

Michigan, perhaps emboldened by a SCOTUS decision earlier in February to halt the Clean Power Plan (CPP), led the charge to have the Court block the Mercury and Air Toxic standards (MATS). The motion to halt the rules gained steam after Michigan broke the barrier.

The Court eventually ruled that in order to mandate the rules, and therefore administer them, the EPA would have to conduct a cost analysis by mid-April. The decision to halt the rules was made after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to grant the states’ request.

“Unless this court stays or enjoins further operation of the Mercury and Air Toxics rule, this court’s recent decision in Michigan v. EPA will be thwarted,” the states wrote in their February filing, asking the nation’s highest court to grant the stay.

The states’ filing continued: “A stay or injunction is appropriate because this court has already held that the finding on which the rule rests in unlawful and beyond EPA’s statutory authority.”

They went on to call the EPA’s rules “an unmistakable example of agency overreach: an executive agency strayed far beyond the limited authority the legislative branch gave it, and then, which this court corrected the agency’s error, EPA requested on remand that the unauthorized, unlawful regulation should be left in place to have the force of law.”

The rules have already cost $9 billion for the states that have already complied. If the SCOTUS decides to shoot down the EPA’s request, then the result could allow the states to escape the overarching rules.

The mercury rule may hammer looking for a nail.

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Harvard University, for instance, found that mercury emissions have ticked downward by nearly 30 percent, mostly because of more efficient coal-fired power plants and the natural gas revolution.

“For years, mercury researchers have been unable to explain the apparent conundrum between declining air concentrations and rising emission estimates,” Yanxu Zhang, the study’s lead author from Harvard University, wrote in a press statement. “Our work is the first detailed, mechanistic analysis to explain the declining atmospheric mercury trend.”

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