Overnight Regulation: Chief justice hands EPA win on air pollution rules

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from Capitol Hill and beyond. It's almost Thursday evening here in Washington and only a little bit of snow and one more workday stands between us and the weekend. Here's the latest: 

 

THE BIG STORY 

The Supreme Court handed the Obama administration a victory Thursday when Chief Justice John Roberts refused to block a contentious air pollution rule. 

Roberts's order rejecting a plea from a group of 20 states asking the court to block the Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards came despite the court's 5-4 ruling last year that the regulations were illegal.

The Hill's Tim Cama has more:

Michigan led a group of 20 states last month -- empowered by the Supreme Court's recent unprecedented decision to halt the EPA's carbon dioxide rule for power plants -- in asking the court to live up to its ruling last year and block the regulation's enforcement.

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"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 states wrote in a Feb. 23 filing with the court.

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."

The EPA responded that no judicial stay is necessary since it's working to fix the problem the court identified by next month, and the states would not suffer irreparable harm in that time.

"The requested stay would harm the public interest by undermining reliance interests and the public health and environmental benefits associated with the rule," the government said. "The application lacks merit and should be denied."

Roberts acted swiftly, waiting less than a day after the EPA's response brief to side with the Obama administration. He acted unilaterally, electing to reject the request himself rather than take it to the full court, which may have led to a 4-4 split following Justice Antonin Scalia's death.

The mercury pollution standards, made final in 2012, are a separate regulation from the more controversial and costly carbon dioxide limits for power plants that are also being litigated in court.

The Supreme Court put an unprecedented halt to the carbon rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, last month by a 5-4 vote, when Roberts chose to let the full court vote on the matter. Thursday's action by Roberts is completely separate from that case.

EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said on Thursday the agency is "very pleased" with Roberts's order.

"These practical and achievable standards cut harmful pollution from power plants, saving thousands of lives each year and preventing heart and asthma attacks," she said, adding that the agency's calculations show $9 in health benefits for every dollar in compliance costs for the regulation.

Read the full story here: http://bit.ly/1Tb2nNY

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY

The Obama administration will publish 210 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Friday's edition of the Federal Register.

--The Department of Transportation (DOT) will prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on airplanes, including most chartered flights.

The smoking ban would apply to all flights where a flight attendant is present.

The rules goes into effect in 30 days. http://bit.ly/1UCD5Yq

--The Department of the Treasury will issue new rules to protect the integrity of U.S. currency.

The rules of conduct would apply to people who are taking public tours of the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). They could face fines of up to $5,000 and criminal prosecution for not following instructions while on the premises.

"The mission of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is to develop and produce United States currency notes, trusted worldwide. BEP prints billions of dollars in currency – referred to as Federal Reserve notes – each year for delivery to the Federal Reserve System," the agency writes.

"Due to the sensitive nature of currency production operations, the Bureau is generally closed to the public," it adds. "Limited areas of the Bureau, however, are accessible for public tours during certain authorized dates and times. Any individual entering, exiting, or on the Bureau's property is subject to the rules of conduct as prescribed within the regulations, and violations may result in criminal prosecution."

The new rules go into effect in 30 days. http://bit.ly/1LXmLui

--The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will allow dozens of truck drivers with poor vision, many of whom are partially blind, to operate commercial motor vehicles.

The FMCSA is exempting 28 truck drivers from its vision requirements. The agency says it "recognizes that some drivers do not meet the vision requirement, but have adapted their driving to accommodate their vision limitation and demonstrated their ability to drive safely."

The exemptions apply until Dec. 3, 2017. http://bit.ly/1p2Atrf

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW 

Group asks lawmakers to push for updated fire safety regulations http://bit.ly/1pppmZg

FBI: Black men 12 times more likely to be murdered than white people http://bit.ly/24EccaX

GOP suggests SCOTUS fight stalling opioid bill http://bit.ly/21acnGm

Small-business group argues against 'ambush election' rule http://bit.ly/1Qulj86

Effort to legalize assisted suicide fails in Maryland Senate – The Washington Post  http://wapo.st/1njUnfq

CDC: Superbugs create 1 in 7 infections caught in hospitals – The Associated Press http://apne.ws/1LClNZF

DOJ sends request for Exxon probe to the FBI – The Huffington Post http://huff.to/1Qod6kq

 

BY THE NUMBERS

84 percent: Share of black homicides in 2013 involving guns.

(Source: The Violence Policy Center).

The group released a new study based on previously unpublished statistics from the FBI. http://bit.ly/21KZaGq

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"In America, black men and women face a disproportionate risk of being murdered, a fact both alarming and unacceptable. Moreover, our study found that the vast majority of these homicides are committed with guns, usually a handgun," -- Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center. 

 

We'll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill's Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and @wheelerlydia.

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