High court ruling undercuts compliance with smog standard

By Sean Reilly | 07/01/2024 01:41 PM EDT

The Supreme Court’s decision thwarts EPA’s rule aimed at making sure more Americans breath clean air.


The Supreme Court blocked enforcement of EPA's "good neighbor" rule, which sets new limits on smog-forming emissions from power plants and other industrial sources. Ian Britton/Flickr

A Supreme Court freeze on implementation of an EPA smog rule is a boon for power companies seeking to block stricter pollution control requirements but a further setback for federal efforts to bring the nation into full compliance with a key air pollution standard.

In its 5-4 ruling last week, the high court temporarily halted enforcement of EPA’s latest “good neighbor” crackdown on smog-forming pollution that starts in one state, wafts downwind and undercuts compliance in another.

When EPA leaders set a 70-parts-per-billion smog exposure standard in 2015, they optimistically predicted that the “vast majority” of counties outside of California would be hitting the new limit by 2025. With that cutoff now looming, tens of millions of Americans still live in areas with smog levels that leave them more vulnerable to asthma and other respiratory illnesses, along with higher odds in some cases of early death, according to agency data.


Progress toward healthier air could now slow even further given the recent ruling.