The Supreme Court Upholds Good Neighbor Provision In The Clean Air Act

In a major victory for the Environmental Protection Agency (and the health of millions of people), the Supreme Court upheld a provision in The Clean Air Act.

The addition to the EPA’s Clean Air Act is called the Good Neighbor Provision. This provision basically calls for states to be held accountable for any air pollution from industrial sources that affects the residents of nearby states. The EPA originally proposed this idea as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) in 2011.

Major polluters will no longer be able to avoid being held accountable for air pollution that travels “downwind” to another state. These polluters will be forced to add more pollution control systems. As costs continue to climb for the more pollution intensive sources of energy, like coal, we can look forward to seeing more coal power plants getting shut down.

Of course, these polluters ignore the human costs of doing business.

According to the findings of the EPA’s CSAPR, the implications of this rule can improve the health of millions of people –

Health Effect Number Of Cases Avoided
Premature Mortality 13,000 to 43,000
Non-fatal heart attacks 15,000
Hospital and emergency department visits 19,000
Accute bronchitis 19,000
Upper and lower respiratory symptoms 420,000
Aggravated asthma 400,000
Days when people miss work or school 1,800,000

This adds up to hundreds of billions of dollars in health benefits. The states will save this money by avoiding the major health expenses that air pollution can cause.

When will the dirty fossil fuel polluters realize that the sooner they switch to renewable energy sources, the less it will cost them in the long run? Solar power has already surpassed grid parity at the utility level.

These short-sighted companies are probably looking at the costs of switching to renewables and are not happy with the numbers they see. They’d rather stick with the status quo, because it’s cheaper in the short term. Capitalism seems to be extremely miopic – unable to see past quarterly profit statements.

Things are changing. This recent Supreme Court decision is another small step in the right direction. Pressure from the EPA is forcing polluters to realize that their days are numbered.

Real change would call for the shutting down of coal plants as quickly as possible. This, unfortunately, would require considerably more drastic and extreme measures from the government, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

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