Environment
1:33 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

SCOTUS Rules Against State Of Texas In EPA Cross-Border State Pollution Case

Credit EPA

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 Cross-Border Pollution Provision that was added to the Federal Clean Air Act. The State of Texas led the opposition against the provision, which was meant to address air pollution drifting into neighboring states.

Supreme Court justices voted to overturn the lower court’s ruling on a vote of 6-2 in favor of the EPA’s rule that is designed to curb air pollution from coal-fired power plants that are located in 28 states.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has long fought against the provision. In October 2013 Abbott said this added rule is a constitutional violation. But conservation groups like Environment Texas disagree.

“The Clean Air Act has a 'good neighbor' provision that allows and requires states that put pollution into cross-borders -- into another state -- to clean up that act,” said Luke Metzger, the director of Environment Texas.

Metzger said Texas has five of the dirties power plants in North America.  

"So this is going to require those power plants to clean up and do things like switch to low-sulfur coal, increase their scrubber efficiency or install other readily-available pollution control technology,” Metzger said.

Abbott argued that will threaten Texas jobs and Texas employers. Metzger said health benefits outweigh the cost of compliance.   

The EPA estimates this added rule will save up to 1,700 lives in Texas, and nationwide will prevent 400,000 asthma attacks each year and save up to 34,000 lives with a net health benefit of $280 billion.

Reacting to SCOTUS ruling,  Terry Clawson with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality provided a statement on behalf of the agency.  

Clawson writes, While the commission is disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court did not fully uphold the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, we’re encouraged that the Court clearly acknowledged both the complexity of the interstate transport problem and that EPA’s authority is inherently limited by the Federal Clean Air Act.  The court held that EPA cannot require a state to reduce pollution by more than is necessary to achieve attainment in every downwind state or require reductions at odds with the threshold for significant contribution that the EPA has set.  Additionally, with the remand of the EPA rule back to the D.C. Circuit, the commission is hopeful the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals will review additional points of error that were not considered in its original opinion.

Following the ruling the Attorney General's office released this statement:

The AG's Deputy Communications Director Lauren Bean writes, "“Although we are disappointed in today’s ruling, we are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that EPA’s power to implement this misguided rule is limited. We look forward to pursuing the remaining challenges Texas has raised against this rule now that it has been sent back down to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – which previously ruled in Texas’ favor when it ruled that the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is unlawful. The EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is a job-killer in Texas and Attorney General Abbott will continue to fight back against this unlawful and overreaching regulation.”