In its final ruling for the term, the Supreme Court weakened the EPA’s ability to do its job, namely it’s ability to regulate power plants. Let’s face it, with all those rulings in favor of human beings, the conservative justices had to throw a bone to their political allies. The 5-4 ruling held:
EPA interpreted §7412(n)(1)(A) unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants. Pp. 5-15. (a) Agency action is unlawful if it does not rest ” ‘on a consideration of the relevant factors.’ ” Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Assn. of United States, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co., 463 U. S. 29, 43. Even under the deferential standard of Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, which directs courts to accept an agency’s reasonable resolution of an ambiguity in a statute that the agency administers, id., at 842-843, EPA strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants. Pp. 5-6. (b) “Appropriate and necessary” is a capacious phrase. Read naturally against the backdrop of established administrative law, this phrase plainly encompasses cost. It is not rational, never mind “appropriate,” to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits.
This is the Supreme Court’s way of saying prevention of pollution only matters if it isn’t too burdensome for the corporation – notwithstanding the consequences to people and the planet. Justice Scalia wrote the decision, making his priorities very clear.
EPA must consider cost—including cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost.
So there you have it. The Court has said if corporations are unwilling to pay to minimize damage to the environment and to the health of people that is far more important than preserving the planet. The Koch brothers will be pleased.