Conservatives Celebrate “Huge Victory” As SCOTUS Rules Against Life-Saving Pollution Safeguards

Toxic air pollution from power plants has been linked to serious health problems including cancer, heart attacks, and premature death, and mercury in particular is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous for young children and pregnant women. But that hasn't stopped conservative media from joyfully celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision that jeopardizes the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to rein in this harmful pollution.

Supreme Court Ruled Against EPA On Mercury And Air Toxics Standards, Sending Case Back To Lower Court

Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Industry Interests In Michigan v. EPA. On June 29, the Supreme Court ruled against the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), stating that the EPA should have considered the costs of the regulation earlier in the process and sending the case back to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. for further consideration. The EPA did not evaluate costs when it first determined that it is necessary to regulate mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants, but did subsequently perform a cost-benefit analysis showing that the monetary value of the rule's public health benefits will far exceed its costs. MATS, which went into effect earlier this year, will remain in place pending further legal proceedings. [Associated Press, 6/30/15]

Conservative Media Are Celebrating Decision That Could Put Public Health At Risk

Fox Business's Charles Payne: “Finally, A Huge Victory.” During an interview with former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister on the June 29 edition of Fox Business's Varney & Co., substitute host Charles Payne proclaimed of the Supreme Court ruling, “Finally, a huge victory.” He later brought on David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation, who declared that the EPA will continue to “go after coal and other forms of hydrocarbon relentlessly,” but that the Supreme Court's ruling is “good news for now.”

[Fox Business, Varney & Co., 6/29/15]

Fox's Bret Baier Repeated GOP's “War On Coal” Rhetoric, Claimed SCOTUS Ruled Against “Administration's Attempt To Regulate The Industry Into Oblivion.” On the June 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report, anchor Bret Baier declared that the Supreme Court had ruled against “the Environmental Protection Agency's war on coal,” echoing a common Republican talking point. Baier also falsely claimed that the court “ruled that the administration's attempt to regulate the industry into oblivion is not worth the cost.” In fact, the court did not address whether the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are “worth the cost,” but rather more narrowly stated that the EPA did not consider the costs of the standards at the proper point in the regulatory process.

[Fox News, Special Report, 6/30/15; National Journal, 7/2/13; Vox, 6/29/15]

WSJ Editorial Board: Supreme Court Decision Is “A Welcome Rebuke To EPA Arrogance.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board praised the Supreme Court for “sho[oting] down” one of the EPA's “regulatory abuses,” and called the decision “a welcome rebuke to EPA arrogance.” [The Wall Street Journal, 6/30/15]

Breitbart Column: We “Should Be Heartened.” Steve Milloy, who runs the climate science denial blog JunkScience, wrote in a column for Breitbart that the MATS ruling “may very well be too little too late for the coal industry,” but that “the rest of us should be heartened” that the EPA must now consider costs when formulating its regulations. [Breitbart, 6/29/15]

National Review: “EPA Must Consider Costs Before Destroying Economy.” The National Review published a blog on its website claiming the Supreme Court said the EPA must “consider costs before destroying [the] economy.” [National Review, 6/29/15]

MATS Rule Would Signifcantly Reduce Toxic Emissions, Bring Health Benefits

UCS: Toxic Pollution Linked To Birth Defects, Neurological Damage, Asthma, Cancer, And More. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) explained that the pollutants regulated by MATS -- including mercury, lead, arsenic, acid gases, and dioxins -- are linked to severe health problems “even in small amounts,” and that power plants are “the largest source” of several of these pollutants. UCS expanded on the health impacts of mercury and other pollutants:

Even in small amounts, these pollutants are linked to health problems such as cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks, and even premature death.


Power plants are the largest source for several toxic air pollutants. In particular, they are by far the largest source of mercury in the United States, with coal-fired power plants making up the vast majority of that.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that poses a threat to fetal and infant brain development, ultimately affecting a child's ability to walk, talk, and learn.

Mercury emitted from these plants and other sources settles into water bodies where it subsequently accumulates in fish. When pregnant and nursing women (or women who may become pregnant) consume these fish, the mercury pollution ultimately affects their children.

According to the EPA's data, more than 300,000 babies are born each year are at risk of mercury poisoning, while at least one in 12, and as many as one in six, American women have enough mercury in their bodies to put a baby at risk. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 12/21/11]

EPA Rule Will Bring $37-90 Billion In Health Benefits Each Year. The EPA determined that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will bring economic benefits via air quality and health improvements, including fewer missed work days, lowered health care costs, and reduced rates of premature mortality. From the EPA (emphasis original):

These new standards will avert up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year.

  • The value of the air quality improvements for people's health alone totals $37 billion to $90 billion each year. That means that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans get $3-9 in health benefits.
  • The benefits are widely distributed and are especially important to minority and low income populations who are disproportionately impacted by asthma and other debilitating health conditions.
  • Up to 540,000 missed work or “sick” days will be avoided each year, enhancing productivity and lowering health care costs for American families. [, accessed 6/30/15]


WSJ Ed Board Should Read Journal's Own Reporting On EPA Mercury Rule

WSJ Op-Ed Denies Dangers Of U.S. Mercury Emissions