Supreme Court hears oral argument on clean air case

The U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral argument in a case involving Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules affecting clean air issues on March 25.

Coal and some electric utility interests have argued that the Mercury and Toxics Standards (MATS) improperly impose expensive air emissions controls with little real benefit. Key industry parties in the case include the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) as well as the National Mining Association (NMA).

Before EPA regulates hazardous air pollutants from electric utilities, it must first conduct a study of the hazards to public health resulting from those emissions even after imposition of all the other requirements of the Clean Air Act, and then decide whether it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate such residual emissions under § 7412, according to the Supreme Court web site.

The question for the Supreme Court is: whether EPA’s interpretation of “appropriate” in 42 U.S.C. § 7412(n)(1)(A) is unreasonable because it refused to consider a key factor (costs) when determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.

The case, No. 14-46 Michigan versus EPA, comes to the high court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the dispute in November. It was consolidated with another related case and scheduled for one hour of oral argument before the Justices.

Transcripts of the oral argument are expected to be posted on the Supreme Court website by the end of the day.

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