Counterpoint: A win for power plants and consumers

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// ]]>Monday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regardingpower plant emissionsis a welcome vindication of common sense that is missing in much of the Obama administration’s regulatory actions. The high court effectively put the nation’s regulator ­in ­chief on notice that ignoring the costs of its actions is neither reasonable nor appropriate and won’t be tolerated.

This is precisely what the Environmental Protection Agency failed to do in its power plant regulation. As Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his majority opinion, “It is not rationale, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health benefits.”

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Legal scholars may debate the meaning of these words for future EPA actions. But most Americans would view them as a common sense admonition. In our everyday lives, most of us recognize what regulators too often ignore: that every benefit comes with a cost, and the value of that benefit cannot be known unless its costs are considered.

In this case, EPA was willing to impose costs of $10 billion per year on consumers for benefits worth only $4 ­to $6 million. Equally unreasonable: Half the costs come from regulating emissions for which EPA found no health risks. In fact, power plants have already achieved significant reductions in mercury and other emissions thanks to new control technologies, begging the question if this rule, among the costliest ever, was necessary in the first place.

This decision is not just a win for power plants and households that depend upon affordable and reliable electricity. It is also a timely warning to governors now being asked to accept EPA’s proposal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Energy experts say that rule will be even more costly for state economies; legal experts now have more reason to claim it is also unlawful.

Hal Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association

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