John Roberts unilaterally backs Obama EPA over states on emissions rule

Many of you have been expressing concerns over the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice with a particular eye toward finding someone who is sufficiently conservative. For that reason, it would seem better to wait and hopefully elect a Republican to the White House and let them make the call. But after today’s news… would it really matter? Even when you let the GOP pick the nominee they don’t always wind up being all that reliable. We learned that lesson yet again this week when Chief Justice John Roberts, an appointee of George W. Bush, sided with the Obama administration and rejected efforts to temporarily block new EPA regulations on power plant emissions. (The Hill)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts rejected a plea Thursday to block a contentious air pollution rule for power plants in a big victory for the Obama administration.

Roberts’s order came despite his court’s 5-4 decision last year ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, is illegal.

Michigan led a group of 20 states last month — empowered by the Supreme Court’s recent unprecedented decision to halt the EPA’s carbon dioxide rule for power plants — in asking the court to live up to its ruling last year and block the regulation’s enforcement.

“Unless this court stays or enjoins further operation of the Mercury and Air Toxics rule, this court’s recent decision in Michigan v. EPA will be thwarted,” the states wrote in a Feb. 23 filing with the court.

I suppose that many readers won’t be terribly surprised at this news after the big Obamacare ruling, but it’s still a serious disappointment. And we should also be clear that this wasn’t just a case of Roberts voting in favor of the Administration or splitting a close decision the wrong way or even a question only having eight justices instead of nine. He never even turned it over to the rest of the court for a decision. Roberts just flatly and unilaterally rejected the case on his own.

This was a baffling decision on Roberts’ part. When the court heard Michigan vs. EPA last year their conclusions were very clear. They agreed that the agency has the right to impose regulations to protect both the environment and the general health of the citizens, but they must consider the costs and logistical burdens placed on the states when enforcing such rules. The EPA didn’t provide a justification for those costs in the carbon rule under discussion then and they haven’t done so with the mercury rules involved here. How one challenge was worthy of not only a full hearing but a rebuke of the EPA while the other didn’t even merit an argument seems illogical at best.

I don’t see this decision going down in Supreme Court history on the same level as Roberts’ botched Obamacare ruling, but it’s certainly one more straw piled on the camel’s back when it comes to his conservative bona fides.