Two high court rulings this year may potentially alter the paths of Obamacare and EPA regulatory authority in significant ways.
Early this year, most likely in March, the court will hear arguments on whether or not the Obama Administration has legal authority to grant tax subsidies through health insurance exchanges established by the federal government….
Obama’s signature war on coal will also face an important high court battle, where the outcome could influence the EPA’s ability to push forward on other regulatory agendas as well.
Somewhat surprisingly to many, the Supreme Court has accepted several challenges brought by the utility industry and a coalition of nearly two dozen states agreed to review the EPA’s first-ever standards requiring power plants to reduce mercury emissions and other pollutants.
The court finding will determine if the EPA should have considered costs their requirements will impose before issuing them. The power companies and states project an added $9.6 billion annual compliance burden.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a lead state plaintiff in the case, charges that, “The EPA has expressly refused to consider the cost of its regulation, which will result in rate increases for citizens across the country, and [which] threatens the reliability of the electricity grid by forcing the closure of many power plants.”
A ruling that forces the EPA to weigh cost impacts of its rulings can have implications impacting a variety of other planned regulatory agendas. Included are separately proposed carbon emission restrictions for new and existing power plants, along with a tighter national ground-level ozone standard.
Although the Clean Air Act used to issue pollution limits specifically says the agency can only consider what best science says, not what it costs to get there, Justice Antonin Scalia noted regarding that the law does provide for cost considerations in other areas of implementing such rules.
Explaining this, he wrote that public health costs of a tight ozone standard may also “offset the health gains achieved in cleaning the air — for example, by closing down whole industries and thereby impoverishing the workers and consumers dependent upon those industries.”
It’s only realistic to observe that while the high court’s decision to accept the mercury case in its latest in a series of environmental lawsuits is encouraging, the EPA has won more often than lost. An EPA victory last year, for example, revived a program that sought to limit pollutant emissions blowing across state lines.
In any case, whatever the ruling, one public health impact is inevitable. As with Obamacare, it will leave a deep and lasting influence upon our nation’s economic well-being.