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The Supreme Court ruled Monday against the Obama administration's attempt to limit power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants, but it may only be a temporary setback for regulators.
The justices split 5-4 along ideological lines to rule that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to take cost into account when it first decided to regulate the toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired plants.
The EPA did factor in costs at a later stage, when it wrote standards that are expected to reduce the toxic emissions by 90 percent. But the court said that was too late.
The rules, which took effect in April, will remain in place while the case goes back to a lower court for the EPA to decide how to account for costs, environmental advocates say.
They were supposed to be fully in place next year. The issue was whether health risks are the only consideration under the Clean Air Act.
The challenge was brought by industry groups and 21 Republican-led states, which argued that the regulations were too costly for coal miners, businesses and consumers.
Republican lawmakers from coal-producing states have long complained about what they see as federal overreach on environmental matters under the Obama administration. Recently, Republicans in both chambers have championed legislation designed to rein in what they see as EPA regulations aimed at producing cleaner energy that some members of Congress say are costly for businesses and consumers.
“The EPA is bent on furthering its regulatory agenda regardless of the costs to American families and consequences for American workers, and I'm pleased that the Supreme Court has finally said enough is enough,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement after the ruling. “The fact that the EPA would absolve itself of any responsibility to consider the impact of its actions underscores the arrogance of this bureaucracy and proves, once again, that the Obama administration will stop at nothing to fulfill its promise to make electricity prices 'skyrocket.'"