Commentary Archive

Power plant

Justices debate benefits and costs of EPA mercury power plant rule

March 31, 2015

By Susan E. Dudley, Director
The Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments in Michigan v EPA regarding “whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.” The regulation being considered is a key part of the Obama administration’s environmental agenda and would require coal-fired power plant operators to install equipment to reduce mercury and other air pollutants. Section 112 of the Clean Air Act directs the EPA to issue regulations that are “appropriate and necessary” to control hazardous air pollutants, including mercury. Thus, one area of debate is whether a standard that imposes very large costs relative to benefits is “appropriate” under the meaning of the statute.