NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Supreme Court Will Hear EPA Case This Term

January 13, 2015

What's on the Supreme Court's upcoming agenda? Writing in the Daily Signal, Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow Elizabeth Slattery offers a look at four cases she says people should be aware of in the coming months, one of which involves the Environmental Protection Agency: Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA.

What's the case about? Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can regulate hazardous air pollutants from electric utilities if it decides such regulation is "appropriate and necessary." The question is, does the EPA have to consider the costs of regulation when deciding whether regulation would be appropriate?

In 2012, the EPA finalized a rule regulating mercury from electric utilities at a staggering cost of $9.6 billion annually. The benefits of regulating mercury? According to the EPA, up to $90 billion. But UARG argues that just $6 million of those benefits came from reducing mercury, the element targeted by the rule. The EPA added up the value of reducing particulate matter -- a byproduct of mercury regulation -- in order to justify the $9.6 billion price tag, despite that such particulate matter was already being regulated elsewhere.

UARG says that spending $1,500 in order to get $1 in benefits makes little sense, insisting the agency should have considered costs in deciding whether it was "appropriate" to regulate. The Court will look at that question this spring.

The EPA rule at issue is the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule (MATS, also called Utility MACT). Senior Research Fellow Ann Purvis wrote about the development of this rule in an NCPA report, explaining how the rule was a product of the "sue and settle" tactic, whereby environmental interest groups sue the EPA and enter into a settlement, with the EPA agreeing to issue a regulation.

Source: Elizabeth Slattery, "4 Key Upcoming Supreme Court Cases Involving Spider-Man, the Confederate Flag and Obamacare," Daily Signal, January 12, 2015. 


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