Supreme Court weighs arguments to pause EPA ‘good neighbor’ policy on interstate pollution

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WASHINGTON DC — The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case Wednesday challenging a Biden administration air pollution rule known as the “good neighbor” provision, which is part of the Clean Air Act.

It’s a federal policy under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meant to regulate the flow of pollution between neighboring states by setting air quality standards for emissions from power plants and industrial facilities.

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This case is different than most because usually the U.S. Supreme Court is the last step in the legal process.

In this case, the states suing want the Justices to pause the “good neighbor” provision while separate lawsuits in lower courts are pending.

Three Republican-led states (Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia) filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court arguing the EPA overstepped its authority by imposing the federal requirements.

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They want the “good neighbor” policy to be temporarily halted because while the rule originally applied to 23 states, it was blocked in about half those states because of lower court cases.

“The EPA had an obligation to consider what happens to the federal plan when one or more states drop out,” said Ohio Deputy Solicitor General Mathura Sridharan. “The remaining states and their industries face serious harm.”

But the EPA argues the pollution standards are critical to protect public health.

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“It’s vital to bear in mind the equities of the downwind states because that’s the whole point of the ‘good neighbor’ provision, the Clean Air Act,” said Malcom Stewart, Deputy Solicitor General for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Biden administration and several other states have warned about negative health impacts on people living in downwind states if the Supreme Court sides against keeping the federal rule in place.

It’s not clear when the Justices will issue a ruling.

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