Cleaner and healthier air for millions of people in Kansas, Missouri and the rest of America won on Tuesday.
And big polluters lost.
That’s the positive upshot of
the U.S. Supreme Court’s surprising pro-environmental decision
that upheld stricter federal rules on coal-plant pollution.
It’s a huge, much-needed victory for President Barack Obama’s efforts to promote clean energy in the United States.
And it’s a big loss for the Republicans who have opposed the clean-air initiative, labeling it a “war on coal.”
Essentially, the Supreme Court rejected that lame argument.
The justices said coal-powered plants need to make sure they reduce their emissions to levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the “Cross-State Air Pollution Rules” established by the federal government.
Coal companies and many utilities for years had fought these regulations, saying the EPA had overstepped its boundaries.
Utilities issued their usual complaints — that dirty plants would have to be shut down, that power would become more expensive, that jobs would be lost.
And a federal appeals court just last year had supported the efforts by more than a dozen states to get out of following the rules.
Going before the often-conservative Supreme Court, that could have signaled trouble for states that want to reduce pollution.
But the Supreme Court fortunately shot down the lines of argument used by opponents of the rules.
The court said states that produce a lot of pollution — especially Rust Belt states such as Ohio — should be reined in to protect East Coast states such as New York.
EPA pointed out that the rules
will provide health and environmental benefits worth billions of dollars a year, “including the value of avoiding 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths.”
The EPA also noted, “This rule will not disrupt a reliable flow of affordable electricity for American consumers and businesses. Health benefits will be achieved at a very low cost, and while the effect on prices for specific regions or states may vary, they are well within the range of normal electricity price fluctuations. Any such costs will be greatly outweighed by the benefits.”
In a world of state legislatures and a Congress that too often reject clean-air arguments, it was refreshing to see the Supreme Court uphold a law designed to benefit Americans.