The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scored a huge court victory recently, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling that the agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) is within the EPA’s realm of enforcement.
The rule, which was put in place in 2012 and would take effect later this year, would tighten the reins on coal-fired power plant pollution. The legal challenge was brought by the dirty energy industry along with several states that contended that the new standards would cost the industry too much money.
The three-judge panel found that the rule did not overstep the EPA’s authority, although one of the justices did dissent on part of the ruling. Judge Brett Kavanaugh said that he believed that the EPA did not consider the overall costs to the industry when they made the rule, even if the agency did conclude that the benefits outweigh the costs (that they allegedly didn’t consider).
It is worth noting that Kavanaugh was appointed to the bench by former president George W. Bush after helping Bush craft a plan to pack the courts with conservative justices. Prior to his position within the Bush administration, Kavanaugh worked for the corporate defense firm of Kirkland & Ellis, the firm currently representing BP for their negligence in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.
The specific language that was targeted was the phrase “appropriate and necessary,” which appears in the Clean Air Act and is the phrase that gives the EPA the authority to enact new standards. The court found that the industry’s challenge that the rule was neither appropriate nor necessary was flawed.
The real issue in the case is that the industry does not want to pay to clean up their operations. However, some companies have already installed the necessary equipment to capture mercury and other toxic pollution.