Supreme Court Appears Poised to Halt Biden’s Air Pollution Plan



The conservative majority of the Supreme Court appears to potentially limit the Biden administration’s effort to cut air pollution that crosses state lines, as implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is centered around the administration’s “good neighbor” plan, which initially required factories and power plants in 23 Western and Midwestern states to cut ozone pollution that drifts into Eastern states. The Supreme Court’s decision, expected by June, could halt the plan provisionally, suspending it for many months or longer, while its challenge continues to be litigated in an appeals court and could return to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Considers Limiting Biden’s Environmental Authority

The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority appears poised to further curb the Biden administration’s environmental protection power, potentially halting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to combat interstate air pollution. This decision, anticipated by June, aligns with the court’s recent trend of diminishing EPA’s authority to tackle climate change and water pollution.

The “Good Neighbor” Plan

The court is divided over the administration’s “good neighbor” plan, which requires factories and power plants in Western and Midwestern states to reduce ozone pollution affecting Eastern states. This plan aims to decrease emissions causing smog and associated health risks such as asthma, lung disease, and premature death.

Legal Challenges to the Plan

A temporary court ruling against the plan could suspend its implementation for an extended period, despite ongoing litigation in an appeals court. The Clean Air Act allows states to draft their own pollution control plans, subject to EPA approval. However, after 23 states failed to develop satisfactory plans, the EPA introduced its own. This led to numerous lawsuits, and federal appeals courts blocked the EPA’s rejection of plans from 12 states, leaving 11 states under the federal rule.

EPA’s Response

The EPA responded by stating that temporary rulings on state plans should not impact the national rule, and blocking it could have severe consequences. The EPA emphasized that halting the rule would delay efforts to control pollution and deviate from Congress’s directive that upwind states must take responsibility for their contribution to downwind states’ emission levels.

Supreme Court’s Viewpoints

Justices shared divergent views on whether states still under the federal plan were negatively affected by the exclusion of others. Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that remaining states were not worse off, while Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh questioned the logic of the plan given its reduced scope. Moreover, industry groups opposing the federal plan argued it would impose billions of dollars in compliance costs.


Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson questioned the necessity of Supreme Court involvement at this stage, while Justice Kavanaugh argued that the court’s standard criteria for pausing a regulation were sufficient for a decision.

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