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On June 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule on mercury from power plants. The decision, Michigan v. EPA, is less significant for its effect on mercury emissions than for what it says about the court's deference to EPA in cases of statutory ambiguity. This column discusses the background and context of the case; the majority and dissenting opinions; and the decision's implications for mercury emissions, for judicial review of administrative actions, and for the Clean Power Plan
The power sector is responsible for a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the country’s single largest contributor to climate pollution. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency released a Clean Power Plan aimed at curbing these emissions, with specific state-by-state goals. Many utilities firms quickly opposed the Obama administration initiative to cut power plant emissions on the grounds that it would require costly investments in clean energy generation. A cheaper, faster route to achieving the Clean Power Plan goals would be to reduce electricity demand through improved energy efficiency. This report calculates how much additional revenue would be available for investment in energy efficiency if utilities paid their fair share of taxes.