Supreme Court Blocks EPA’s Interstate Air Pollution Regulations

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s environmental regulation aimed at curbing harmful air pollution that travels from state to state and contributes to smog.

In doing so, the court in a 5-4 vote granted requests from three Republican-led states — Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia — and various affected industries, including natural gas pipeline operators. The decision is temporary, pending litigation.

The Environmental Protection Agency regulation applied to 23 states, though lower court rulings have already banned it in a dozen states.

Environmental groups that banded together to defend the rule, including the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, decried the decision.

“Today’s decision is deeply disappointing. It will immediately result in pollution endangering the health of millions of people,” the groups said in a statement.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, among those challenging the regulation, said in a statement that the contested rule would put additional pressure on the power grid.

“This decision by the Supreme Court is correct, but the EPA will continue to try to legislate and ignore the authority of Congress,” he added.

In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that while the EPA partially blocked the rule, that was part of the problem because the agency did not indicate how effective the regulation would be if it were only partially in effect.

Gorsuch wrote that the government “could have produced the same cost-effectiveness analysis conducted jointly for 23 states and mandated the same emissions-control measures if conducted for just one state.”

Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett disagreed with the decision of the court’s three liberals.

He wrote that the court had blocked a major air pollution statute “on the basis of an underdeveloped doctrine” when the legal question was finally decided.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, is skeptical of the broad exercise of federal power on regulatory issues, including the environment.

As a result, it accepts legal challenges from Republican attorneys general and industry groups.

The EPA’s “Good Neighbor” program was announced last year in an effort to curb nitrogen oxide pollution from industrial facilities. If fully implemented, it would apply to 23 “upstream” states where emissions could contribute to pollution in “downwind” states.

The EPA announced the planA requirement of the Clean Air Act, it can help prevent premature deaths, reduce emergency room visits and reduce asthma symptoms by controlling smoke levels.

Generally, states will have the opportunity to draw up their own pollution control plans. The Clean Air Act requires each state to be a “good neighbor,” meaning it must address pollution that could contribute to other states not meeting their own obligations.

The EPA may offer to adopt its own plan, which happened last year. All three states complained about the central government’s approach, saying in part that there was not enough time to come up with their own plans.

In two other important environmental cases before the Supreme Court, the EPA lost both times.

In 2022, the court limited the agency’s ability to use the Clean Air Act to fight emissions that contribute to climate change. Last year, the court weakened the landmark Clean Water Act by limiting the EPA’s regulatory oversight of wetlands.

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