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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Mercury Emissions Rule Due for SCOTUS Fight

DETROIT (CN) - With the fate of emissions policy uncertain after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, 22 states want the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit mercury standards.

Scalia had been part of a 5-4 majority in June 2015 that blocked the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's environmental policy that were poised to saddle businesses with the cost of buying anti-pollution equipment.

Though the Supreme Court majority blasted the Environmental Protection Agency for adopting the regulations with no heed to their cost, states that challenged the scheme initially say the EPA remains in conflict with the ruling.

To force an overhaul, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the other challengers petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay last week.

"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 filing states, as quoted in the Hill. "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."

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision last year, it required the D.C. Circuit to implement its findings on remand.

Schuette says no such action has occurred and that the "unauthorized rule" remains in force.

"We are simply asking the court to enforce its ruling and require the EPA to follow the law like everyone else," Schuette said in a statement.

Schuette said compliance with the regulation has already cost various utilities billions of dollars, and that these costs will be passed to "all families who use electricity."

In contrast to these costs, Schuette said the EPA has forcast just $4 million to $6 million in annual environmental benefits.

The ratio breaks down to at least $26 of costs for every $1 of benefit, Schuette's office maintains, according to news reports.

Michigan and the other states petitioned Chief Justice John Roberts for the stay. Though a justice can grant stays unilaterally, the justice can also put such a vote to the entire court.

Schuette's request comes on the heels of a different setback the Supreme Court dealt Obama's Clean Power Plan.

The climate-change-based regulations that the high court blocked on Feb. 9 require states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 32 percent by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.

Though Michigan is a challenger in that case as well, it joined 17 states one week later in a pledge to expand clean-energy reforms.

Scalia's vote played a critical role in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to grant the Feb. 9 stay.

The stay puts the carbon rules on ice pending a June hearing by the D.C. Circuit on the merits of the challenge.

Obama is in friendly territory here, however, as this court previously rejected a pre-emptive challenge of the same regulations.

If the states lose and appeal to the Supreme Court, a 4-4 vote by the justices would have no effect on the case.

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