Supreme Court will consider suspending Biden's plan to address air pollution


The Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it would hear arguments in February on whether it should temporarily block the Biden administration from requiring factories and power plants in Western and Midwestern states to reduce air pollution reaching Eastern states. .

Meanwhile, the court's brief order did not suspend the program or add the case to the court's merits docket. Oral arguments in cases that come to court through an emergency request, as in this case, are quite rare.

The four consolidated cases concern the administration's “good neighbor” rule, which initially applied to 23 states, ordering them to take steps to ensure their pollution did not affect downwind states.

The rule required power plants and industrial manufacturers to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, which causes smog and is linked to asthma, lung disease and premature death. Prevailing winds transport the pollutant toward eastern states with fewer industrial sites.

The Clean Air Act gives states the opportunity to design their own plans, subject to approval by the Environmental Protection Agency. In February, the agency concluded that 23 states had failed to develop adequate plans to meet their revised ozone standards.

A wave of litigation followed, and seven federal appeals courts blocked the agency's disapproval of plans submitted by a dozen states, leaving 11 states subject to the federal rule.

Three states — Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia, along with energy companies and trade groups — challenged the federal rule directly in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. When a divided three-judge panel of that court refused to stay the rule while the case proceeded, the challengers asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

“EPA had to disapprove more than 20 state implementation plans before the agency could adopt its national standard,” said an emergency request filed by several energy companies. “EPA’s disapprovals of those state plans are currently under challenge in seven federal circuits, and each of those courts has suspended EPA's disapproval of the underlying state plans. However, EPA continues to implement the rule, which is no longer a uniform national rule, even though it remained in place in most states where it was intended to apply.”

The three-state petition urged the court to block the new rule in light of appeals court rulings, saying that “the federal plan is already a failed experiment” and “is nothing more than a shell of its former self.” original”.

The EPA responded that interim rulings on state plans should not affect the national standard and that blocking it would have serious consequences.

“It would delay efforts to control pollution that contributes to unhealthy air in downwind states, which is contrary to Congress' express directive that sources in downwind states must take responsibility for their contributions to emissions levels in downwind states,” the agency report said.

The brief added: “A suspension of the rule could result in years of delays in phasing in significant emissions reductions. Such delays would severely harm downwind states that suffer emissions from their downwind neighbors, placing the entire burden of achieving healthy air quality on those states and exposing their residents to public health risks.”

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