On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to “regulate the smog from coal plants that drifts across state lines from 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast”. In October, The Sustainability Co-Op noted the Supreme Court’s upholding of the EPA’s ruling of greenhouse gases being hazardous (and therefore categorized as a pollutant by the Clean Air Act), in our piece “U.S. Supreme Court Stands with EPA in a Blow to Industry“, and today we are again celebrating this new decision, which signals that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could withstand legal challenges. Although Republicans and the coal industry are still claiming Obama’s actions are a “war on coal”, the Supreme Court’s recent decision is paving the road for Obama’s main environmental agenda: a series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants.
This “good neighbor” rule was first issued in 2011 but struck down by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The EPA said before the Supreme Court that these regulations were necessary to protect the health and the environment of downwind states affected by the coal plants in Midwestern states. The regulation will require upwind polluting states to “cut pollution in relation to the amounts of pollution each state produces, but also as a proportion of how affordably a state can make the cuts” allowing the states that can reduce pollution in least-costly ways to cut more.
The coal industry will not stop here, though. Recent documents reveal that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) intends to attack the EPA any way possible from cutting greenhouse gas emissions, specifically encouraging state attorney generals to bring lawsuits against the new EPA regulations.