In EPA v. EME Homer City Generation L.P., the Supreme Court recently upheld regulations adopted by the EPA restricting the discharge of pollutants from coal plants that drift from Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast. The regulations were promulgated under the Clean Air Act, but critics call the regulations part of the Obama administration’s war on coal.
The regulations are known as the “good neighbor” rule, and restrict the pollution output of coal powered energy plants in states like Michigan and Ohio which are blown by the prevailing west to east winds to states like New York and Connecticut. Utilities and 15 states opposed the regulations as giving the EPA too much authority and placing an unfair economic burden on states that utilize coal plants.
Those opposing the regulations claim that the expense of compliance will require the closing of inexpensive coal fired electricity plants, driving up energy prices and threatening jobs. Supporters of the regulations point out that while states that utilize coal fired plants obtain the economic benefits of cheap energy, other states suffer the harmful effects of the pollution.
Probably one of the most important impacts of the decision however is that it will be used to support the legality of the extensive new Clean Air Act regulations to be released this summer requiring the reduction of carbon discharge from all power plants. These regulations will be central to the Obama administration’s efforts to combat global climate change. In its recent decision, the Supreme Court clearly signaled that the EPA has a lot of discretion in addressing air pollution issues. However, how far the Courts will allow the EPA to go to fight climate change waits to be seen.