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EPA Loses at SCOTUS—but is Damage Already Done?

EPA Loses at SCOTUS—but is Damage Already Done?

It could be too late for coal

The Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency 5-4 this week, saying the EPA erred in not considering costs when implementing new regulations governing toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants:

The 5-4 decision Monday went against an Environmental Protection Agency mercury rule that forces utilities to shutter old coal plants or invest billions of dollars in equipment to clean up the emissions from their smokestacks. The court said the EPA should have considered the costs and benefits before deciding whether to impose those limits on the toxic emissions.

“The agency must consider cost -— including, most importantly, cost of compliance -— before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. “Reasonable regulation ordinarily requires paying attention to the advantages and the disadvantages of agency decisions.”

Ironically, the rule could stay on the books while the EPA performs the analysis:

The decision to send the regulation back to a lower court to decide what happens next leaves open the possibility that the 2011 rule, called the mercury and air toxics regulation, could be left on the books while the agency does the analysis that the high court said it should have done long ago. It could take a few months for that lower-court decision.

Despite the victory, it may have come at a cost that is too late to recover. The rule went into place several years ago and the impact has taken its toll:

Since 2012, when the EPA finished its mercury rule, at least 58 coal-burning power plants have partially or entirely shut down, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That has taken more than 16,000 megawatts of capacity offline, enough to power roughly 16 million homes.

The decision also looks like it will cause further rifts between the Obama administration and Congress:

Earnest said the decision won’t hold back the administration’s broader clean power initiatives.

“There is no reason this court ruling should have any impact on the ability of the administration to develop and implement the Clean Power Plan,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the ruling a “a cutting rebuke to the administration’s callous attitude” toward coal-producing states and said there is “no reason” for governors to comply with Obama administration’s climate regulations before the courts have the chance to weigh in.

The ruling does not make McConnell’s criticism “accurate or in the direct interest of the American public,” Earnest said. “In both cases, he is wrong.”

The broader issue here is that the Obama administration knows it will take so long for the courts to react that when the time comes to evaluate the stringent new rules, the damage will already have been done.

The administration does this, of course, knowing stricter air pollution controls make it difficult and sometimes impossible to keep coal plants running. This paves the way for more solar and wind energy sources to step in, which is exactly what the administration prefers.


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The Obami have made our ESSENTIAL…and it is essential…electrical infrastructure MUCH more fragile and tightly stretched in the name of the druidic religion of “green goo”, and in pursuit of billions of dollars in crony lucre.

Next time a Collectivist liar even mutters the word “infrastructure” we all should spit in their eyes.

If there is a patent need to spend some time, genius, and money in American infrastructure, it is on the electrical grid that makes life possible for Americans. And I DON’T mean on moonpony wind or solar power. I mean on the robust, proven power generation from fossil fuels, and on built and pre-positioned transformers to replace the aging and vulnerable ones that have no current replacements.

    Stan25 in reply to Ragspierre. | June 30, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Build more nuclear powered plants too. There is also a need for more hydroelectric dams, eco-terrorists be damned.

      Hydro-power is awesome. And it’s an awesome example of the ADHD-like attention span and attitude of eco-activists.

      Hydroelectric dams were built to end dependence on coal- and oil-burning power plants, they were just as reliable and capable, and they produced zero emissions. The eco-activists just loved them.

      And now, the eco-crowd hates them, because despite fish ladders and alternate waterways for the salmon, a few fish get crushed in the turbines every year.

      The new crazes are solar and wind power. Once we’re sufficiently dependent on them, I predict the eco-crowd will start to hate them, too. They’ll hate on solar because it produces a lot of thermal energy (“heat pollution”) as a by-product, and they’ll hate wind because the eagles get injured or killed in collisions with the turbine blades, and both require a lot of cleared, treeless acreage.

      I really believe the eco-activists just hate electricity and humanity in general. Nothing short of “zero electricity”, “zero environmental impact”, and “zero humans” is ever good enough to please them.

        Milhouse in reply to Archer. | June 30, 2015 at 4:03 pm

        Greens have been anti-hydro since at least the late ’70s, because of flooding the valleys and destroying the poor trees and the scenery. In Australia, their fight against the hydro was the catalyst for their growth into a real force in politics.

        I really believe the eco-activists just hate electricity and humanity in general.

        Yes, exactly. This is really what’s behind it all. They’re Gaia-worshippers. Nature is good, man is evil. It all goes back to the same roots as the Xian myth of the Fall.

        randian in reply to Archer. | July 1, 2015 at 4:00 am

        I think the incredible waste of land required to use solar will make the left go nuts, but not before they’ve destroyed our conventional infrastructure.

    Dr P in reply to Ragspierre. | June 30, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    too bad we can’t harness the hot air surrounding the projects that were shovel ready or burn the products of what the shovels were really required to pick up

Freddie Sykes | June 30, 2015 at 8:39 am

According to an engineer friendly with my daughter, the EPA required that electrical plants that did not meet their standards be both dismantled and their parts be made inoperable so that they could not be reused.

Think Cash for Clunkers meets the electric grid.

There must be a suit hiding somewhere in all these horse dropping.

CloseTheFed | June 30, 2015 at 9:01 am

When I think of all the bird deaths that solar panels and wind turbines cause, I cannot believe the outright blindness of the left, insisting that birds covered in oil are sufficient reason to detest oil use.

    onlyabill in reply to CloseTheFed. | June 30, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Your mistake is in thinking that they actually care about the animals. Oh sure, your low level eco-warrior cares about the environment and nature (in a “oh, isn’t that nice” sort of way) but the head honchos in the eco movement don’t care a bit about that. They are socialists and communists through and through and are only using the eco movement to wage war on capitalism and on the U.S.A.

      Like I said in another comment above, I really believe the eco-activists just hate humans in general and (as you point out) capitalism in particular. “Loving nature”, “caring for animals”, and “protecting the environment” are just the politically-correct cover stories.

      If anyone were to come up with a 100% zero-emission, totally clean, unlimited source of energy with zero by-products, the eco-activists would still find some reason to hate it.

    Chem_Geek in reply to CloseTheFed. | June 30, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    None whatsoever. Oh, yes, that’s right, the coal plants puff out unicorn farts.

    Utility CEOs & plant managers should be required to live & raise their families downwind of their plant, in the center of the plume.

      Ragspierre in reply to Chem_Geek. | June 30, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      How is your life in your sans electric lean-to in the primal forest, you poor, moronic, lying phuc?

      murkyv in reply to Chem_Geek. | June 30, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      Funny thing is, developers of industrial wind turbine farms live nowhere near the 500 foot tall monuments to Gaia that they shove in peoples backyards

      During a battle over the behemoths in my neck of the cornfield, we forced the developers and managers to admit that they live far away from the blight on the landscape

Midwest Rhino | June 30, 2015 at 10:39 am

If the EPA needs to is required by settled law, to give prudent cost/benefit analysis data to the public on their malicious mandates, when will they reconsider their “CO2 is a pollutant and must be regulated” decisions?

There is much data that CO2 greens up America, produces more food per acre, is negligible as a greenhouse gas, and there is evidence that a little warming would be good for mankind anyway. CO2 is our friend, in no way a pollutant.

CO2 is not a cost to “climate”, it is a benefit to the whole world. Rev. Gore’s prophetic/apocalyptic junk science is a proven scam, their selective data proven lies, the profiteers proven con men, the objectives proven anti-capitalist agitprop.

We now have “settled law” that EPA can’t make it up as they go, yet the White House is immediately claiming they have ways around this ruling. Laws are just an inconvenience for them. We have 200 years of energy in coal alone, if we can just keep the commies from destroying our nation under their fog of deception.

global percentages … US has 28%

US map of reserves, IL coal could bail us out?

    smalltownoklahoman in reply to Midwest Rhino. | June 30, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I think a big part of why they try to regulate CO2 so much is because it’s a byproduct of many industrial processes. Since it’s a byproduct of these processes that makes it something that we can manipulate. By regulating CO2 emissions the government can exert a lot of control over much of the economy and thus our lives.

Insufficiently Sensitive | June 30, 2015 at 12:46 pm

This paves the way for more solar and wind energy sources to step in, which is exactly what the administration prefers.

The substantially higher prices of solar and wind power will damage the economy and punish all citizens whose limited budgets can’t meet the bloated new PC electrical bills. This is already occurring in Germany.

If the Supreme Court can insist that costs be considered in imposing the rules, they’d better add that those ‘green’ electrical costs be taken into account too.

One reason for those cost escalations is that sun and wind are intermittent, and that energy must be stored, and that the happy unit costs for producing the power never account for storing it. That storage bill may be swept under the rug by the fantasists in the media, but it will come in through your mail slot.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to Insufficiently Sensitive. | June 30, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    I don’t think they can store it, can they? Not on a large scale.

    So we still require all the other plants anyway, but turn some off and on (not like a light switch), but still man them full time. Some of their more profitable marginal units get cut out of the income equation, to accommodate intermittent wind and sun.

    There may be a limited place for solar to help with peak AC demand in summer, in sunny climates. But they have to be cleaned and maintained, not sure even that is really profitable.

      Insufficiently Sensitive in reply to Midwest Rhino. | June 30, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Sure, it can be stored. Put up a giant tank farm, use the power to pump the tanks full of compressed air, then release it through generators when wanted. Or build a giant high reservoir, use the power to pump water up into it, release it through generators when wanted. The costs of building such storage systems are gigantic, and the operating and maintenance costs are too. Your cheap wind/solar power gets expensive in practice, when thousands of people have to depend on it.

        Midwest Rhino in reply to Insufficiently Sensitive. | June 30, 2015 at 2:13 pm

        yeah, well, that’s what I mean … they can’t practically/economically store huge amounts of energy. Even the home systems are rather prohibitive, practical only if you find cheap off the grid land in beautiful but isolated country. Which some people do.

Why can’t the companies that lost money through these illegal regulations now sue the EPA to be made whole, reimbursing them for all costs incurred till now, and paying all the costs of putting the closed plants back into production?

smalltownoklahoman | June 30, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Just outside our town is a coal burning power plant. A few months back they started a big project to convert over much of their power generation from coal to natural gas due in large part to these regulations. What burns me up about the envirowhacko’s war on coal is that this same power plant was a candidate a couple of times for testing out cleaner methods of burning coal. Ultimately it got passed over and I can’t help but think that part of it was because the parent company (AEP) saw which way the political winds were blowing and decided not to invest money in projects they knew they would likely have to scrap in a few years.

I’m surprised that no one has commented on the fact that the picture with the article shows nothing but steam coming out of cooling towers.

Enviroweenies see pictures like that and grab for the fainting couch, claiming it’s pollution