Chief Justice Roberts Rejects Bid to Suspend MATS Rule

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the plea of 20 states to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule while the agency works to comply with a previous ruling.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had requested the stay to pause any further action to implement the rule until the EPA finishes complying with a June 2015 Supreme Court ruling that the agency did not properly consider costs in its rulemaking for MATS.

The Supreme Court’s decision last summer sent the case back to the D.C. Circuit Court for further proceedings, and Schuette argued that the D.C. Circuit Court erred in not vacating the rule altogether. Rather, the Circuit Court left the rule in place while the EPA reconsiders the costs of implementation, despite what Schuette believed was the Supreme Court’s rejection of it.

The 20 states involved in the request had drawn hope from last month’s Supreme Court decision to halt the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Late Justice Antonin Scalia had delivered the opinion of the court in that ruling. With his passing, the playing field has been leveled, with four justices holding more liberal views and four justices holding more conservative views.

The stay request had been filed with Chief Justice Roberts, because only one justice was required to approve it. But Roberts’s rejection leaves the actions of the D.C. Circuit Court in place.

Environmental groups applauded Chief Justice Roberts’s action.

“The utility industry has already shown that it is prepared to comply with this vital rule and the EPA has nearly completed the analysis the Supreme Court requested, confirming that these benefits are unequivocally worth the costs of compliance. It would make no sense to suspend these vital protections during the handful of weeks it will take EPA to complete that analysis,” said Sanjay Narayan, managing attorney at Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)