Supreme Court Upholds EPA’s Authority on Clean Air Act
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the way the federal government sets air-quality standards under the Clean Air Act, unanimously rejecting arguments from industry groups that the EPA should consider cost when implementing such standards, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Under the Clean Air Act, which became law in 1970, the EPA must use criteria that "accurately reflect the latest scientific knowledge" to identify pollution's effects on health. But business groups have said that the EPA sets standards "without clear criteria" and without consideration of the effects of the standards on businesses, the AP/Inquirer reports. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the court interpreted the law as "requiring the EPA to set air quality standards at the level that is 'requisite' -- that is not lower or higher than is necessary -- to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety" (Asseo, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/28).
The ruling moves "tougher" air-quality standards written by the Clinton administration in 1997 "closer to reality," USA Today reports. Those standards would raise costs for truckers, power plants and other businesses (Biskupic/Watson, USA Today, 2/28). The EPA maintains that the new standards are necessary to protect 125 million people from adverse health effects and would prevent 15,000 premature deaths and 350,000 cases of aggravated asthma. Although the court ruled that the EPA had the authority to set the new rules, it ruled "on narrow statutory grounds" that the agency's "policy for implementing [the rules] with regard to ... smog ... violated the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act." The Washington Post reports that this "means the actual enforcement of that part of the EPA's new clean-air standards remains in legal limbo until the agency can work out a new policy consistent with the court's holding" (Lane, Washington Post, 2/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.