EPA proposes fix to air pollution rule after Supreme Court loss

EPA proposes fix to air pollution rule after Supreme Court loss
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to fix an air pollution rule that the Supreme Court said was improperly written.

The court decided in June that the EPA’s limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants were invalid because the agency did not consider costs before it decided to pursue the regulation.

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Now the EPA is seeking to administratively fix the problem by declaring that the regulation’s benefits are higher than its costs.

The EPA already conducted a cost-benefit analysis when it wrote the rule. With the newest proposal, the EPA wants to officially declare that it would have come to the same conclusion if it had done the analysis before it even undertook the regulatory process.

“With today’s proposal, we are addressing the Supreme Court’s decision: we have evaluated several relevant cost metrics, and we are proposing to find that taking consideration of cost into account does not alter our determination that is appropriate to set standards for toxic air emissions from power plants,” Janet McCabe, head of the EPA’s air pollution office, said in a blog post.

While the Supreme Court decided against the rule, it did not overturn it. With the Friday action, the EPA is trying to solve the problem the court identified.

Republicans, the coal industry and others cheered the June decision, saying it vindicated them by showing that the EPA regulates without considering costs.

The agency did consider costs, but the section of the Clean Air Act authorizing the mercury rule required that the EPA first determine that such a regulation is “necessary and appropriate,” a term that the justices said mandated a separate cost-benefit analysis.

The EPA’s regulatory agenda anticipates making the proposed change final by May.