The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Zahra Ahmad,

Supreme Court Blocks Life-Saving Federal Air Pollution Plan

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay EPA’s “Good Neighbor Plan”

Today, the Supreme Court stopped the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Good Neighbor Plan, suspending a critical clean air rule that would have saved thousands of lives and prevented millions of asthma attacks. The decision allows power plants that began reducing their deadly pollution last year to increase it again while legal battles unfold in the lower court.

By acting through its “shadow docket,” the Supreme Court unusually inserted itself into a case still before a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In September, that court rejected industry and allied states’ request for a preliminary stay of the Good Neighbor Plan, which requires big polluters in upwind states to reduce emissions contributing to smog in downwind states. The D.C. Circuit is now considering all the issues in depth, and full briefing on the merits is underway.

“With this decision, the Supreme Court has abandoned any pretense of neutrality in cases involving environmental regulations,” said Earthjustice’s Senior Vice President of Program Sam Sankar. “The Court’s right-wing Justices took more than eight months to work on this ’emergency’ stay request, but they still couldn’t come up with a single solid legal justification for this extraordinary order. The Court’s opinion shows that the Justices are just second-guessing EPA’s approach to carrying out its duty under the Clean Air Act to reduce smog pollution. The Court’s order puts thousands of lives at risk, forces downwind states to regulate their industries more tightly, and tells big polluters that it’s open season on our environmental laws.”

The growing pattern of anti-environmental Supreme Court decisions threatens lives. The Good Neighbor Plan mandates that heavy-polluting industries in upwind states curb emissions that contribute to smog in downwind states. For example, polluters in upwind states like Ohio and Indiana, which previously avoided controlling their harmful emissions, would have to reduce their high contributions to dangerous smog levels in downwind states like Connecticut and Wisconsin. Smog is a harmful byproduct of air pollution created by factories, power plants and vehicles. Smog causes asthma attacks, heart and lung diseases, and premature death.

A coalition of environmental and health groups has defended the Good Neighbor Rule in court. The coalition includes the Environmental Defense Fund; Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Clean Air Council, and Clean Wisconsin represented by the Clean Air Task Force; and Air Alliance Houston, Appalachian Mountain Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Downwinders at Risk, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, represented by Earthjustice.

Learn more about the Good Neighbor Plan.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.