WASHINGTON (June 30, 2015) — By a partisan 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) final rule limiting toxic emissions from power plants.
The EPA erred in not initially considering costs to power plants in its determination of whether the toxics standard was “appropriate and necessary” under the Clean Air Act, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the high court's June 29 decision, which reversed and remanded an earlier ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
While the agency refused to consider costs in deciding to issue the toxics rule for power plants, it did calculate that the cost of compliance for power plants would be $9.6 billion a year, whereas the resulting benefits of reducing hazardous air pollutants would be $4 million to $6 million a year, according to Justice Scalia.
“Agency action is unlawful if it does not rest on a consideration of the relevant factors,” he wrote. “EPA must consider cost — including cost of compliance — before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary.”
In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan noted that the EPA did consider costs later in the rulemaking process.
The EPA issued a statement saying it was reviewing the high court's decision and considering its next moves.
The agency said its actual estimate of the benefits from the toxic emissions standard is $37 billion to $90 billion annually, resulting from the prevention of 11,000 deaths, 4,700 non-fatal heart attacks and 540,000 lost days of work per year.
More than 70 percent of the power plants in the U.S. already have controls in place to comply with the toxic emissions rule, the EPA said.
The Supreme Court ruling was "a win for manufacturers," according to a June 29 press release from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
"Today, the Supreme Court called out the EPA for a systematic problem — failure to appropriately consider costs — that the agency has repeatedly used to issue overly aggressive regulations that place manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage,” said Linda Kelly, NAM senior vice president and general counsel.