Supreme Court Ruling Against EPA in Mercury Pollution Case Not a Victory for Coal Industry

Posted July 15, 2015

MP3 Interview with Dustin White, community organizer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


As it wrapped up its 2014-15 docket, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 29 ruled against one of the Obama administration’s key environmental initiatives that required coal-fired power plants to clean up mercury and other toxic emissions. It its 5 to 4 ruling, the court found that the Environmental Protection Agency had not considered the costs of its regulation at the beginning of its rule-making process, even though it did so later on. The decision in the case known as Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency did not overturn the rule, but sent it back to the EPA to rewrite it.

Many coal-fired power plants across the U.S. have already closed or are scheduled to shut down, due to a combination of pressure from environmental groups and economic factors. Others have installed scrubbers to clean up the air pollution the plants produce. Overall coal production in Appalachia is on the decline and the value of stock in some of the nation’s largest companies, like Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, have tumbled to just pennies a share.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Dustin White, a community organizer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in West Virginia, which was one of 13 citizen groups and eight states that sued American Electric Power Company in 1999 over the issue of mercury pollution. The suit charged that the company violated the New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act and should be required to clean up 11 of its coal-burning power plants in five states, six of them in West Virginia, in order to comply with the Act. The case was settled in 2007 when the company agreed to cut 813,000 tons of air pollutants annually at an estimated cost of more than $4.6 billion, pay a $15 million penalty and spend $60 million on projects to mitigate the adverse effects of its past excess emissions. Here, White shares his view that the Supreme Court decision against the EPA is not as big a setback for coal communities as it first appeared.

For more info, visit Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition at

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