The Supreme Court squandered much of the goodwill that it gained this weekend by blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule regulating mercury emissions, with the conservative justices arguing that the agency was “unreasonable” when it failed to adequately calculate the cost that corporate polluters would have to pay in order to cleanse their waste of the extraordinarily toxic chemical- even though “while the majority based its case on an administrative technicality, it was forced to concede that the public health benefits of the EPA’s mercury rule do indeed outweigh the costs of compliance, by a margin as high as 9 to 1”.
It’s an astonishing ruling that shows that the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court once again are placing the profits of corporate America over the welfare of the general public and our environment. “It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits” said Justice Scalia, leaving no small question as to where his loyalties lay. He even had the gall to compare life-saving regulations with the purchase of a Ferrari, a metaphor that was brutally eviscerated by Justice Kagan: “The comparison is witty but wholly inapt. To begin with, emissions limits are not a luxury good: They are a safety measure, designed to curtail the significant health and environmental harms caused by power plants spewing hazardous pollutants.”
Environmental groups have risen up in angry protest at the Court’s pandering to the fossil fuel industry. “Congress decided more than two decades ago that no child should be born with brain damage or other neurological harm, simply because industrial polluters refuse to pay for pollution controls…But today, five justices of the Supreme Court have decided to make an exception for Big Coal — the industry responsible for the majority of mercury, arsenic, and acid gas pollution in the United States” said Sanjay Narayan of the Sierra Club.
The ruling now shunts the question to the D.C. Circuit Court, placing the ruling in jeopardy depending on how successful Big Coal was able to sway the justices on that court. The fossil fuel industries, from coal to oil, are one of the biggest obstacles facing progress in our nation today. The Koch Brothers and the rest of those groups work tirelessly to buy our democracy, gut regulatory agencies, and think nothing of poisoning our people. We can only hope that the D.C Circuit Court has more regard for the well-being of the American people than Justice Scalia does.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.