Supreme Court votes down EPA "mercury and air toxins" regulation

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COLUMBIA - The Supreme Court ruled on Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency's effort to regulate power plant emissions. With a 5-4 decision, the justices voted against the Obama administration's attempt to curb the hazardous air pollutants emitted from the power plants.

The case, Michigan v. EPA, centered on the EPA's first limits on mercury, arsenic and acid gases emitted by coal-fired power plants.

Boone Electric Cooperative Manager of Member Services Chris Rohlfing said the policy would only have adversely affected customers if it stood.

"We think that the ruling is good in the fact that it is always very important to end up considering benefits with cost," he said.

The Supreme Court said the EPA did not properly consider the cost of the regulation, which would have cost $9.6 billion a year.

"Every time there is a cost, it comes down to the consumer ultimately, not just the businesses," Rohlfing said.

Boone Electric Cooperative, which is owned by Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., currently serves 28,000 members in Boone County. In a survey in 2013, Rohlfing said 69.9 percent of customers said they were not willing to pay more to combat climate change.

"We have a lot of people on Boone Electric Cooperative who struggle to pay their energy bill now, and to create higher costs for the energy is going to be a tremendous burden to the point where, do they pay their electric bill or do they buy their groceries?" Rohlfing said.

He also said the Supreme Court ruling will give the industry time to do the right thing.

"There is no need to rush into requirements," he said.

Rohlfing said the co-op is already making efforts to reduce mercury emission from the coal-fire plants. Boone Electric Cooperative uses coal, natural gas, wind, and hydro to generate power. In 2014, 79 percent of its energy came from coal. 

In a statement, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement today that the state of Missouri will continue to hold the EPA accountable while protecting Missouri's growing economy. 

"There is a growing public perception that the EPA is acting without accountability when making decisions that adversely impact our state's economy," Koster said. "This case is a good example of that perception being true - where EPA's remedy, by its own assessment, would cost up to 2,400 times more than any benefit it might provide."

KOMU 8 News reached out to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and a number of environmental advocacy groups for comment but did not hear back.