- The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday regarding the Obama administration's mercury and air toxins rule, with debate centering on whether the federal government needed to consider costs when laying out emissions mandates.
- A groups of states and industries challenged the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS), alleging the costs far outweigh the public health benefits.
- The court appeared to be split over whether the word "appropriate" in the Clean Air Act (CAA) should be interpreted to include the cost of regulations.
A divided court heard arguments which largely centered on the word "appropriate," and whether the CAA required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was required to consider the costs of new emissions mandates. A transcript of the arguments can be found here.
The law requires regulations be "appropriate and necessary."
Justice Antonin Scalia was a skeptic, saying "I'm not even sure I agree with the premise that when when Congress says nothing about cost, the agency is entitled to disregard cost."
"I would think it's classic arbitrary and capricious agency action for an agency to command something that is outrageously expensive and in which the expense vastly exceeds whatever public benefit can be can be achieved," Scalia said. "I would think that's that's a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act."
Justice Elena Kagan appeared to defend the agency's rule, however, saying Congress "knows how to require consideration of costs," and "to get from silence to this notion of a requirement seems to be a pretty big jump."
"Sometimes what we've done is we've looked at silence and we've said given that silence, cost considerations are precluded," Kagan said. "Sometimes we've said silence still allows agency discretion."
As written, the regulations could force utilities to shutter more than a thousand generators at hundreds of the nation's larger's power plants. The EPA, however, estimates the regulations could prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year by limiting mercury, particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants it says are hazardous to public health.
The Supreme Court is not expected to release a ruling on the MATS regulation until June.