Supreme Court agrees to hear key EPA power plant regulation

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments on whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.”

The high court on Nov. 25 granted “a writ of certiorari” to consider consolidated litigation involving several cases including Michigan versus EPA; the Utility Air Regulatory Group versus EPA and the National Mining Association versus EPA.

The cases are consolidated and a total of one hour is allotted for oral argument, the high court said in a one-page order.

The case will involve landmark national environmental standards requiring power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants, the Wall Street Journal noted.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had ruled in April cost concerns don’t trump the need for a regulation geared toward cutting emissions from coal and other fossil fuel power plants.

The appeals court held that for existing sources that maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards may not be less stringent “regardless of cost or other considerations” than the average emission limitation reached by the best performing sources.

The three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit issued a two-to-one decision that also featured a strongly-worded dissent by one of the three judges.

NMA welcomes review by Supreme Court

In a statement, NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn welcomed the decision by the high court to hear the association’s appeal of the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).

NMA says the rule could force retirement of up to 20% of the nation’s coal-generated electricity and weaken the power grid.

“NMA was gratified to learn the Supreme Court agreed to hear our argument that appropriate cost consideration is necessary in the promulgation of major federal regulation. This argument is especially relevant for the regulatory issue the court has agreed to hear today. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards has already had far-reaching and costly impacts not only on our industry but on many states and their citizens whose assurance of reliable electricity supply has been cast in doubt by this rule,” Quinn said.

“EPA’s rule reflects a stunningly unbalanced approach to regulation. The agency decided to impose expensive standards for certain emissions that it never found posed a threat to public health. EPA’s decision imposed a cost on electricity consumers of at least $9.6 billion each year while offering at most $6 million in benefits,” said NMA’s Quinn.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at