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Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to EPA Rule on Downward Power Plant Pollution

It's been an effort to restrict smokestack emissions that burden downwind areas with smog-causing pollution.

Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the sun sets, near Emmett, Kan., Sept. 18, 2021. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in February on whether the Environmental Protection Agency can continue enforcing its anti-air-pollution “good neighbor” rule in 10 states, an effort to restrict smokestack emissions from power plants and other industrial sources that burden downwind areas with smog-causing pollution.
Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the sun sets, near Emmett, Kan., Sept. 18, 2021. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in February on whether the Environmental Protection Agency can continue enforcing its anti-air-pollution “good neighbor” rule in 10 states, an effort to restrict smokestack emissions from power plants and other industrial sources that burden downwind areas with smog-causing pollution.
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will hear arguments in February on whether the Environmental Protection Agency can continue enforcing its anti-air-pollution “good neighbor” rule in 10 states, an effort to restrict smokestack emissions from power plants and other industrial sources that burden downwind areas with smog-causing pollution.

The high court put off a decision on whether to halt enforcement of the rule Wednesday, allowing it to stay in effect at least until after it hears arguments during its February session.

The rule is being challenged by three energy-producing states — Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia — as well as industry groups and individual businesses.

The EPA declined to comment Wednesday, referring questions to the Justice Department. The Justice Department also declined to comment.

The environmental agency said power-plant emissions dropped by 18% in 2023 in the 10 states where it has been allowed to enforce its rule, which was finalized in March. Those states are Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The rule is on hold in another dozen because of separate legal challenges. The other states are Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. In California, limits on emissions from industrial sources other than power plants are supposed to take effect in 2026.

States that contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, are required to submit plans ensuring that coal-fired power plants and other industrial sites don’t add significantly to air pollution in other states. In cases where a state has not submitted a “good neighbor” plan — or where EPA disapproves a state plan — the federal plan was supposed to ensure that downwind states are protected.

Ground-level ozone, which forms when industrial pollutants chemically react in the presence of sunlight, can cause respiratory problems, including asthma and chronic bronchitis. People with compromised immune systems, the elderly and children playing outdoors are particularly vulnerable.

Environmental and public health advocates have praised the pollution-cutting plan as a life-saving measure for people who live hundreds of miles away from power plants, cement factories, steel mills and other industrial polluters.

Industry groups criticized the plan as having an anti-coal bias that would drive up the cost of electricity.

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