Thursday, March 3, 2016
Chief justice rejects plea to block air pollution rule
Chief justice rejects plea to block air pollution rule By Timothy Cama - 03/03/16 10:35 AM EST Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts rejected a plea Thursday to block a contentious air pollution rule for power plants, in a big victory for the Obama administration. Roberts’s order came despite his court’s 5-4 decision last year ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation, known as mercury and air toxics standards, is illegal. Michigan led a group of 20 states last month, empowered by the Supreme Court’s recent unprecedented decision to halt the EPA’s climate change rule for power plants, in asking the court to live up to its ruling last year and block the regulation’s enforcement. “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 a Feb. 23 filing with the court. “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.” The EPA responded that no judicial stay is necessary, since it’s working to fix the problem the court identified by next month, and the states would not suffer irreparable harm in that time. “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 said. “The application lacks merit and should be denied.” Roberts acted swiftly, waiting less than a day after the EPA’s response brief to side with the Obama administration. He acted unilaterally, electing to reject the request himself rather than take it to the full court, which may have led to a 4-4 split following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. The court ruled last June that the EPA should have conducted a cost-benefit analysis on the regulation before it even decided to start writing it. The agency did so as part of the regulatory process, but the justices said that was not sufficient. But the Supreme Court did not overturn the rule at the time, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in December that the EPA could keep enforcing it. Environmental groups were very pleased with Roberts’s decision.