DC Circuit Court Upholds MATS Rule
In a 5-4 ruling penned by Justice Scalia, the Court determined that EPA illegally promulgated the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) by not adequately considering the rule’s compliance costs. The Court did not toss out the MATS rule, opting instead to remand the case to a lower court to make that ultimate determination.
On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that EPA would be allowedto continue enforcing the MATS rule while the agency fixed the problems identified by the Supreme Court six months ago. With MATS ultimately being upheld, what some considered to perhaps be aPyrrhic victory for the 21 states petitioning the rule earlier this year has probably become even more pyrrhic in nature.
Ironically, the fact that the rule was upheld may actually help the 26 states – including the majority of the 21 in Michigan – challenge EPA’s Clean Power Plan. A major component of the states’ Clean Power Plan lawsuits is centered on the argument that EPA cannot regulate under §111 of the Clean Air Act (i.e., Clean Power Plan) those existing facilities in source categories already regulated under §112. Since the MATS rule falls under §112, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under §111 could potentially be legally problematic.
Perhaps the most interesting item coming out of the Court’s ruling in Michigan, however, was Justice Thomas’ concurrence, which urged the Court to rethink “Chevron Deference” –one of the most important principles in administrative law where courts largely defer to regulatory agencies’ interpretation of statutes. In the Yale Law Journal, Brian Lipshutz writes about this and Thomas’ similar concurrences in other cases during the 2015 term and what they may mean for the Court in interpreting administrative law going forward.