Obama’s SCOTUS Nominee Has Sided With EPA Over Coal In The Past

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Merrick Garland, the jurist President Barack Obama nominated to replace Justice Antonin Scalia in the Supreme Court, has a record of siding with environmental regulators over coal producers, among other fossil fuel groups, according to the Governor’s Wind & Solar Energy Coalition (GWEC).

Prior to selecting Justice Elena Kagan as one of his nominees to the Supreme Court in 2010, Obama entertained the idea of picking Garland for the spot. During that year’s nominating process, the GWEC notes, SCOTUS watcher Tom Goldstein on the website SCOTUSblog stated the judge had “strong views favoring deference to agency decision makers.”

In particular, Goldstein continued, Garland is a mixed bag on environmental issues, delivering decisions that both favor “contesting EPA regulations” and those giving deference to EPA’s overarching regulatory hand.

Garland was on a panel upholding the EPA’s mercury standards for power plants in 2014. The mercury rule was eventually placed on hold after the Supreme Court argued the rule did not effectively take costs into consideration. It will cost utilities $9.6 billion a year to comply with the mercury rule.

The three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit panel upheld the rule, essentially rejecting pleas from industry groups and utilities arguing the rule would shutter hundreds of coal companies by imposing absorbent costs on coal production.

Later, in a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court knocked down the EPA-administered rule, arguing the agency acted “unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plant.”

The so-called mercury rule, also called MATS, “imposes enormous costs upon households and businesses but provides little additional environmental benefit. The court recognized the EPA has the authority to consider costs but upheld EPA’s decision to ignore them,” National Mining Association President Hal Quinn told reporters shortly after hearing Garland and his colleague’s decision.

Obama said Wednesday during a press conference held in the Rose Garden that Garland is “widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence.”

The president added that Republicans should give Garland an up or down vote. And if they don’t, Obama warned, then “it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.”

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