In the most recent string of Supreme Court rulings, a blow was dealt to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to curb power plant emissions. The intention of the regulations were to reduce the amount of mercury and other pollutants in the air. The Supreme Court ruled that the EPA did not appropriately consider how much this could cost power plants, and in turn energy consumers (i.e. you and me). The EPA must now go back and take into consideration an appropriate cost-benefit analysis of the regulations.
The interesting point is that the Court did not rule against the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions, but ruled that the correct cost-benefit analysis was not pursued by the agency. Could the EPA go back, pursue such an analysis, and continue on with the same regulations as before? We will see what the agency does.
Some may be saying: “Well wait, reducing mercury in the air is good isn’t it? I don’t want to be breathing that, and I would probably be willing to pay more on my energy bill to avoid it.”
Power plants only account for less than 0.5% of all the mercury in the air Americans breathe. Even if power plants eliminated every single particle of mercury that is emitted, it would still do nothing about the other 99.5% in the air. The financial cost of eliminating these tenths of percentage points is staggering: even according to the EPA, which as noted above only did a limited cost-benefit analysis, the regulations would cost American power plants over $10 billion per year, which would in turn be passed on to the consumer. In addition, the National Black Chamber of Commerce released a study on the regulations that indicated they would cause 7 million black Americans to lose their jobs by 2035.
This would be quite the cost to Americans everywhere, with little benefit.