Supreme Court Ruling on Air Pollution Is a Big Win for Public Health

After today’s news from the Supreme Court, over 240 million Americans can breathe easier. In their decision, the Court upheld a vitally important public health rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2011. EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which implements the “good neighbor provision” of the Clean Air Act, requires power plants to cut pollution that is causing smog and soot problems in downwind states. Those states are home to roughly three-quarters of all Americans. 

EPA previously estimated that the rule will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.8 million sick days a year – achieving up to $280 billion in annual health benefits.

These substantial health benefits will be achieved at modest costs using readily available pollution controls already adopted by many power plants. While leveling the playing field, the rule also gives power companies the flexibility to choose the most cost-effective option for cutting air pollution and protecting downwind communities.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is one of President Obama’s major clean air and public health accomplishments. Other major actions include:

  • First-ever national limits on mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants
  • New car and gasoline standards to cut vehicle pollution
  • Long-overdue limits on toxic air pollution from industrial boilers and incinerators
  • Rules to cut smog-forming pollutants from oil and gas wells
  • Tighter air quality standards for particulate pollution (or soot), reflecting new science about dangerous health impacts 

Overall, the Administration’s clean air safeguards will save tens of thousands of lives, avoid millions of lost work and school days, and make our cities and towns healthier places to live and raise families.

Although we’ve made important progress in cutting smog, soot, mercury, and toxic air pollution, our work is not done. More action is needed to cut the harmful carbon pollution that causes climate change, impacting our communities and public health. In June, EPA will issue a proposed Clean Air Act rule to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. This step, which will build on the Administration’s previous clean air successes, is a central element of the President’s Climate Action Plan.

Dan Utech is the Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. Mike Boots is Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Related Topics: Energy and Environment
JUMP TO: