Supreme Court Blocks EPA Air Pollution Regulation

( – The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 27 ruling blocks the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule that sought to regulate cross-state air pollution.

The EPA’s “Good Neighbor Rule” rule sought to reduce smokestack emissions from power plants to protect 11 downwind states from the negative impact of pollution from upwind states. The rule required states to create a plan that comply with the EPA’s ozone guidelines. However, if the EPA decides the state’s plan is inadequate, the EPA would design a plan that complies with its guidelines.

The EPA determined in February 2023 that 23 states did not have sufficient plans, leaving the EPA to implement its emissions-control program for the 23 states, leading to a challenge from the Republican-led states. The states claimed that the EPA’s “dictatorial approach” did not consider the implications of substituting the EPA plan for the state plan.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 ruling, stating that the challengers of the EPA’s rule would likely succeed in blocking the new rule. Therefore, the ruling noted that the Supreme Court’s intervention was unwarranted.

The ruling by the Supreme Court paused the rule while the challenge to the rule makes its way through the court system. The case is awaiting review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the court’s three liberal justices dissented. In her dissenting opinion, Barrett said the rule is being halted due to “an underdeveloped theory that is unlikely to succeed on the merits.” She noted that the ruling will allow upwind states “to keep contributing significantly to their downwind neighbors’ ozone problems.”

EPA Administrator Michael Regan stated he was “disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s ruling and that the agency is confident in its defense of the rule in the lower court, noting that it comes at the worst possible time” because summer weather can lead to an increase in ozone pollution.

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