Supreme Court halts EPA ‘good neighbor’ rule

By Sean Reilly | 06/27/2024 10:12 AM EDT

The decision thwarts the agency’s latest crackdown on smog-forming emissions.

Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant.

Emissions rise from the smokestacks of a coal-fired power plant. Charlie Riedel/AP

The Supreme Court has dealt another blow to a major EPA air pollution control initiative, freezing implementation of the agency’s latest crackdown on smog-forming emissions that cross state lines.

By a 5-4 vote, the court Thursday stayed last year’s “good neighbor” plan in response to applications by three Republican-run states and a variety of business entities.

While the decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch does not kill the new requirements, the order will stop EPA from applying them to coal-fired power plants and other industries in 11 states while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ponders the plan’s merits in a separate proceeding.


Justice Amy Coney Barrett, joined by the court’s liberal wing, dissented.

A series of lower-court rulings had previously halted implementation in another 12 of the 23 states originally covered by EPA’s plan. As a result, the plan had become unworkable and posed a threat of “immense” compliance costs, an attorney for the challengers contended at oral arguments before the high court in late February.

While a lawyer for EPA argued that regulators had always anticipated that the plan’s geographic makeup could change, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the agency had not explained whether the requirements would be the same if they applied only to 11 states instead of 23.

Under the Clean Air Act’s good neighbor provision, states are barred from allowing emissions from power plants and other industries to make it harder for areas outside of their borders to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The plan is intended to help bring the United States into full compliance with EPA’s most recent standard for ground-level ozone, a lung-damaging compound that is the main ingredient in smog.