The Supreme Court’s decision against a key Obama administration air pollution rule is not stopping regulators from moving forward on the government’s most ambitious climate change rule.
Janet McCabe, head of the air pollution office at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), characterized the Monday ruling in Michigan v. EPA as “very narrow,” and said it does not affect any other air or climate regulations.
“The decision does not affect the Clean Power Plan, which EPA will be finalizing later this summer and which will chart the course for this country to reduce harmful carbon from its fleet of existing power plants,” McCabe wrote in a Tuesday blog post, referring to the EPA’s proposed limits on carbon dioxide output from the power sector.
“This decision does not affect other Clean Air Act programs that address other sources and types of air pollution … it means that rules and programs that reduce other types of pollutants under other sections of the Clean Air Act — like ozone and fine particles (smog and soot) can continue without interruption or delay,” she continued.
The Monday ruling faulted the EPA’s process for writing limits on mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollutants from power plants. It did not strike the rule down, instead leaving it to a lower federal court to decide.
Republicans, the energy industry and other opponents of President Obama’s environmental rules celebrated the decision has a major rebuke of the EPA that should slow its landmark climate rule, among others.
But McCabe disagreed.
She called the decision “disappointing to everyone working to protect public health by reducing emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants,” but said it does nothing to change other regulations or make the agency think twice about how it regulates.
Specifically, the Supreme Court faulted the EPA for not considering the costs of the mercury regulation before it started to consider such rules.
The agency only considered costs during the regulatory process, which it does with most rules, and will continue to do, McCabe said.
Officials have not said what they will do next with the mercury rule, including whether they will seek to remedy the problem that the Supreme Court identified.
“There are questions that will need to be answered over the next several weeks and months as we review the decision and determine the appropriate next steps once that review is complete,” McCabe wrote.