The Supreme Court, by a 6-2 vote, upheld an EPA regulation that requires 28 states to take steps to reduce the amount of air pollution they produce because of the negative effect it has on the health of people in states to the north and east of them, where that pollution travels.
States in the Midwest and South whose polluted air flows north and east must comply with a federally imposed solution, a 6-2 majority of justices ruled.
The decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was a boon for the Obama administration and its environmental regulators. They had required 28 upwind states to slash ozone and fine particle emissions from power plants because of their downwind effects. Most of those states have rebelled against the solution, and a federal appeals court sided with them in 2012.
The case focuses on air currents miles overhead but has down-to-earth consequences. The Environmental Protection Agency blames exposure to ozone and fine particles in the air for one in 20 deaths in the United States, 90,000 hospital admissions, 200,000 non-fatal heart attacks and 2.5 million cases of aggravated asthma.
Given the depth of the problem, the court majority concluded that the EPA chose a sensible solution — basing soot and smog reductions on the least costly means available. That puts an added burden on states that have done less in the past to control their power plant pollution.
“We are satisfied that EPA’s construction of the (Clean Air Act) reasonably responded to a perplexing problem the statute itself does not resolve,” Ginsburg said from the bench.
Justices Scalia and Thomas were in dissent, but conservative Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy sided with the majority. Justice Alito recused himself for reasons that were never explained.
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