Supreme Court defeat won't hinder climate push, says EPA chief

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The head of the Environmental Protection Agency remains confident on the legality of the Obama administration’s environmental agenda despite a Supreme Court ruling against a major EPA regulation.

Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyThe Clean Water Rule: One year later How Congress got to yes on toxic chemical reform Overnight Energy: Labor rift opens over green mega-donor MORE on Tuesday characterized the June 29 ruling in Michigan v. EPA as “very narrow” and said it will have no bearing on the administration’s carbon dioxide rules for power plants or other regulations.

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“EPA is still committed to finalizing the Clean Power Plan. So making a connection between the mercury and air toxics standards decision and the Clean Power Plan is comparing apples and oranges,” McCarthy said at an event hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

“Last week’s ruling will not affect our efforts,” she said. “We are still on track to produce that plan this summer.”

The court, in a 5-4 decision, said that although the EPA considered the costs of its 2011 regulation limiting mercury and air toxics (MATS) emissions from power plants, it should have considered costs before even endeavoring on the regulatory process.

The decision did not overturn the MATS rule, which is still in effect while the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit considers how to enforce the Supreme Court’s mandate.

McCarthy sought to dash the hopes of congressional Republicans, industry and others who read the ruling as a wide-ranging rebuke of President Obama’s EPA that would affect the carbon rules due out this summer, ozone pollution limits and other initiatives.

“The court seemed to go out of its way to narrow this decision, in so many ways,” McCarthy said. “They really made it just about this single provision that they said Congress told us really to treat this differently.”

Had the EPA considered costs earlier in the MATS process, it would have come to a similar conclusion as it did in the rule: up to $9.6 billion in industry compliance costs for up to $90 billion in health benefits and other positive results, she said.

McCarthy said she could not guess how the D.C. Circuit Court would proceed, but she is confident that the rule will continue to stand.

“The majority of power plants have already decided and invested in a path to achieving compliance with those mercury and air toxic standards,” she said. “So we are well on our way to delivering the toxic pollution reductions that people expected.”