EPA Head Sees Limited Impact From Supreme Court Mercury Decision

Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling against a plan to cut mercury pollution will have only limited impact as utilities are already moving to comply, the Environmental Protection Agency head said Tuesday.

In her first extensive remarks after the court’s June 29 decision, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy described its legal underpinning as “very narrow” and not a threat, either to the plan to cut mercury and other air toxics or a separate effort to reduce carbon dioxide in response to climate change.

The court, in a 5-4 decision, said that the EPA should have considered the costs and benefits of its plan before deciding to impose the limits.

“The majority of power plants have already decided and invested in their path to achieving compliance with those mercury and air toxic standards,” McCarthy said at a Washington event held by the Christian Science Monitor.

She said eventually the rule would be implemented.

“There’s very compelling reasons for the utilities to continue to treat this as a requirement, and I think you’ll see them doing that,” she said.

McCarthy also predicted the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature effort to combat climate change, will hold up to court challenges.

“We’re very good at writing rules and defending them in court, and this will be no exception,” she said.

A draft anticipated emissions cuts from power plants by 30 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. McCarthy said the final rule will be released this summer. She said public perception has shifted in favor of action on climate change, and called the recent encyclical from Pope Francis urging action a “game changer.”

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