NORMAN — The Supreme Court decision handing the Environmental Protection Agency an important clean air victory Tuesday was refreshing in every sense of the word.
The court’s 6-2 ruling upheld the EPA’s authority to limit power-plant emissions that blow across state lines. It’s a crucial step forward for President Barack Obama’s effort to improve the air quality of states downwind from polluting coal-fired plants.
Better still, the ruling sets the stage for the EPA’s new climate change regulations, which are expected to be released in June.
Critics argue that the rules will be just one more attempt to reduce the nation’s reliance on its 600 coal-fired power plants. They’re right. The sooner the better.
Power plants estimate the costs of implementing the EPA rule at about $800 million a year. But emissions from burning coal force states to spend tens of billions of dollars every year in health and environmental costs.
The court’s ruling, in effect, says power plants in 28 states in the East, Midwest and South have a responsibility to reduce the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution that goes into the air and drifts to other states.
Downwind cities and states have argued for years that pollution from coal-fired plants outside their jurisdictions has prevented them from meeting air pollution standards. The court validated this claim, laying to rest the contention that the EPA had placed an unfair economic burden on polluters.
Coal-fired plants are the single largest source of the nation’s carbon emissions, responsible for about 40 percent of the total.
The president ordered the EPA last year to issue new regulations to fight global warming this June. He has confidence that this nation’s innovators can find ways to make cleaner, renewable sources of energy more practical and affordable, and so do we. The Supreme Court ruling provides the legal backing needed to move forward.