Schuette asks Supreme Court to stop EPA on mercury rule

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to suspend further action by the Environmental Protection Agency on rules limiting mercury and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants until the agency heeds the court’s ruling on the issue last year.

In December, an appeals court said the EPA’s rule could remain in effect while government officials decide how to account for its costs.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Obama administration’s EPA should have considered the costs and benefits of its rule before deciding to regulate limits on mercury and other hazardous air pollutants.

Michigan was among 21 states and industry groups that wanted to halt the plan, arguing that utilities and their consumers should not have to bear the costs of installing and operating pollution-scrubbing equipment while the parties continued to litigate.

“Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must follow federal law and consider costs before implementing new regulations on job creators and American families. We are simply asking the court to enforce its ruling and require the EPA to follow the law like everyone else,” Schuette said in a Wednesday statement.

EPA officials argued that the rule should stay in place to continue the benefits of cleaner air and avoid disrupting a program that has seen more than 70 percent of power plants already install controls to comply with the rules.

Supporters of the rule have said the court’s ruling in the underlying case would be limited in Michigan, where the state's mercury-specific emissions rule largely mirrors the EPA's. Michigan's utilities still plan to shut nine coal-fired plants.

Only one justice is required to approve the stay, but a justice may forward the request to the whole court, according to Schuette’s office.

Earlier this month, the high court granted a stay that temporarily blocks implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, pending review by a federal appeals court.

The Clean Power Plan requires states to slash greenhouse gas pollution emitted by power plants a third by 2030, mostly by closing or upgrading coal-fired plants, as well as boosting production of wind and solar power.

Following the court’s decision, Michigan officials said the state would suspend its preparations to comply with the plan and instead wait until the courts resolve the issue.

The Associated Press contributed.

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