Opinion

EPA ruling puts costs of regulating emissions above breathing them

An editorial from The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The debate about toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants isn’t dead.

It’s not even past.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that efforts to limit emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants are too late.

Actually, the court’s decision hinged on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not properly taking into account what the costs would be when it first decided to regulate this risk to public health.

When is it too late to start regulating toxic emissions from power plants? Most of us, rich or poor, would agree it’s never too late.

Furthermore, we didn’t even know the EPA was charged with accounting for such costs in its mission to protect the environment.

This court is putting the costs of regulating toxic emissions above the costs of breathing them. To breathe the Kool-Aid, so to speak.

Perhaps worse than this decision was the reaction of our state’s public officials and others.

For our public officials to virtually not breathe a word about this ruling’s impact on public health is appalling.

If they were not thrilled that the court agreed with their office, again, they were hopeful that this ruling gives the EPA pause about efforts to regulate mercury emissions in the future.

That despite common knowledge that mercury is a highly-toxic chemical and that the largest emitter of mercury pollution is coal-fired power plants.

But where was the concern about clean air and water?

What we did hear ranged from the loss of jobs and the economic impact to an out-of-control bureaucracy and radical agendas.

As to those others who chimed in —a coal company, a coal association and a union that represents miners—it was simply a case of, “What do you expect them to say?”

One justice, who wrote in a dissent, said it was enough that the EPA considered costs later in the process.

It would seem to us to be enough that when the EPA wrote these standards, it factored in how to reduce these toxic emissions by 90 percent.

When did the cost of compliance ever dictate whether any regulation is appropriate and necessary? Apparently, on Monday.

Americans born long after the 1970s may never have heard of Centralia, Pa., the Love Canal, the Cuyahoga River, Times Beach, Mo., the Exxon Valdez and scores of environmental disasters.

But we take for granted the impact the EPA won in our state and nation with regulation as a result of such catastrophes.

And the reason why millions of us are still alive and breathing today.

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