Ex-EPA lawyer sounds off on ‘stunning’ Supreme Court air argument

By Pamela King | 02/23/2024 01:15 PM EST

Vickie Patton rebuked one justice for comparing harms to children’s health to the burden of power plants “flipping the switch” on pollution controls.


The Supreme Court is weighing EPA’s “good neighbor” rule, which limits smog-forming emissions from power plants and other industrial sources. Smokestacks are shown. Ian Britton/Flickr

Former EPA lawyer Vickie Patton on Thursday decried a conservative justice’s analysis of the harm posed by a federal air rule the Supreme Court examined this week.

During a panel discussion on Clean Air Act law, Patton pointed to a moment in Wednesday’s oral argument over EPA’s “good neighbor” rule in which Justice Brett Kavanaugh equated the financial harm to the power sector to the damage the public would suffer if the court blocked the rule.
in Wednesday’s oral argument

In the first few years of EPA’s rule — which targets smog-forming pollution that travels across state lines — the agency would only require power plant operators to flip the switch on pollution controls that are already installed in their facilities, she said.


Kavanaugh “sees an equivalence to the health harms of our children and flipping the switch on those pollution controls,” said Patton, who helped implement the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments while at EPA and now serves as general counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund.