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Environment & Climate Change

What will the Supreme Court's decision on mercury rules mean for Michigan?

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The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the state of Michigan, other states, and industry groups in a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions rules.

The justices ruled the EPA was unreasonable when it refused to consider costs in its initial decision to regulate mercury emissions from power plants.

Read the Supreme Court's ruling in Michigan vs. EPA here.

Rick Pluta is the State Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Although any Supreme Court decision is a big deal, Pluta says the effects of this particular decision might not be too noticeable in Michigan.

“On the ground here in Michigan — as a practical matter — we probably won’t see a whole lot of changes and there are a few reasons for that,” he says.

Pluta explains that Michigan passed a statewide mercury rule while this issue made its way through the courts.

“And it’s pretty much the same mercury rule as the one that the EPA was defending," he says. "So no matter what, the utilities in Michigan are still operating under the same standard."

Pluta says Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is satisfied with the Supreme Court decision. Here's what Andrea Bitely, the attorney general's press secretary, told him:

“The court agreed with our opinion that we must find a constructive balance in protecting both the environment and continuing Michigan’s booming economic comeback,” she says.

But Pluta says environmental groups call the ruling a setback.

“They say that the attorney general and the Supreme Court have sided with polluters over environmental protection,” he says.

Consumers Energy and DTE are already working to shut down several coal burning power plants in Michigan, and they’ve said that’s partly because of EPA’s mercury limits. But spokespeople for both utilities told us the court ruling won't alter their plans much.

“It might change the timing of what they do, but they say that — as a practical matter — they still expect to arrive at the same place,” he says. “You know, the utilities have been planning for these rules and for operating under these rules for a long time, and it would have to take something pretty dramatic — although, what’s more dramatic than a Supreme Court decision? — to have them change course.”

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