Supreme Court Upholds EPA Interstate Air Pollution Regulations

The Supreme Court has upheld EPA regulations requiring reductions in SO2, NOx, and fine particle emissions in 28 states stretching from Texas to New York.

The regulations, known as the “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule” or “Transport Rule,” are intended to reduce interstate transport of air pollutants, and were enacted under the “Good Neighbor Provision” of the Clean Air Act, which requires states implementing federal Clean Air Act requirements to enact measures to avoid contributing “significantly” to nonattainment of air quality standards in other states. EPA adopted Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) to meet the Good Neighbor Provision’s requirements after it concluded that the measures adopted  in the 28 State Implementation Plans (SIPs) at issue were inadequate.

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Ginsburg, concludes that EPA acted within its discretion in adopting a federal rule for cross-border pollution, and reverses a D.C. Circuit decision vacating the rule. Citing the plain meaning of the Clean Air Act, the Court rejects the argument that EPA was required to provide the states with an opportunity to revise their SIPs before adopting federal regulations. The Court also upholds EPA’s decision to take cost into account in allocating emissions reductions among upwind states. The majority opinion was authored by Justice Ginsburg and joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Justice Alito took no part in the consideration of the case. 

In his dissent, Justice Scalia (joined by Justice Thomas) argues that EPA abused its discretion by failing to give states an opportunity to modify their SIPs to meet the requirements of the Good Neighbor Provision before issuing federal implementation plans, and also took issue with EPA’s consideration of cost in setting emissions limits for upwind states, which he argues is prohibited by the plain language of the statute.

The lead case is EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, L.P., No. 12-1182.

Topics:  Air Pollution, Clean Energy, Environmental Policies, EPA, Pollution Control, SCOTUS

Published In: Administrative Agency Updates, Energy & Utilities Updates, Environmental Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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