The Supreme Court emboldened opponents of the Obama administration’s environmental agenda Monday with its ruling against a major air pollution rule.
Republicans and others who have railed relentlessly against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in recent years are touting the decision as a validation of their accusations of executive overreach — and vowing to keep up the battle.
While the ruling only directly affects the EPA’s limits on mercury and other toxics air pollutants from coal-fired power plants, opponents see it as a major win that would also hamper Obama’s most significant environmental rule, setting carbon limits for power plants.
The Supreme Court said that the EPA did not properly consider the costs of the regulation before it decided to write it, as required by the Clean Air Act. The rule is still in force while a lower court decides how to enforce the decision.
“Obama administration officials like to pretend that the costs of their massive and regressive regulations either don’t exist or don’t matter,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again MORE (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision represents a cutting rebuke to the administration’s callous attitude,” he said.
McConnell added that the ruling backs up his advice to state governors to ignore the power plant regulations, since the mercury rules have already caused plant shutdowns and job losses.
“Clearly, there is no reason to subject their states to such unnecessary pain before the courts have even had a chance to weigh in, especially if the Supreme Court simply ends up tossing the regulation out as we saw today,” he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the decision justifies the House’s repeated votes against EPA rules, such as last week’s bill to weaken and delay the carbon rules.
“The House has consistently worked to increase to ensure the American people have a strong voice in the development of regulations that impact their way of life,” McCarthy said.
“The Supreme Court’s decision today vindicates the House’s legislative actions to rein in bureaucratic overreach and institute some common sense in rulemaking.”
“Today’s decision is an indictment of this Administration and its reckless abuse of power,” said Rep. Rob BishopRob BishopTrump signs order to roll back Obama’s offshore drilling limits What to know about Trump's national monuments executive order The Hill's Whip List: 21 GOP no votes on new ObamaCare replacement bill MORE (R-Utah).
Justin Savage, an energy industry attorney at Hogan Lovells, said the ruling is a “fundamental shift in administrative law,” the legal area dedicated to executive branch regulation.
“It essentially elevates cost analyses that were typically done in the back room at [the Office of Management and Budget] into the courtroom,” he said. “The court took a very open-ended phrase, ‘appropriate and necessary,’ and read that to compel EPA to consider costs.”
Savage said the ruling is likely to lead to a sharp increase in litigation concerning whether and how federal agencies analyze the costs of their decisions, including the carbon rules.
But others said the Supreme Court issued a very narrow ruling that only affects the small section of the Clean Air Act under which the EPA wrote its rule.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday that the decision does not affect the carbon rule.
“There is no reason this court ruling should have any impact on the ability of the administration to develop and implement the Clean Power Plan,” he said.
Ricky Revesz, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University Law School, had a similar conclusion.
“Nothing in this decision would in any way call into question the legal legitimacy of the Clean Power Plan,” he said.
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