Two attorneys for those challenging CSAPR were reminded repeatedly by the Justices that the Clean Air Act did not lay down hard-and-fast directives to the EPA on how to devise pollution control strategies, so the agency was left to come up with those using its own expertise. During the hearing, challengers argued that the EPA effectively forced states to guess at what their obligations would be to be “good neighbors” toward other states under CSAPR. In response to this argument, the Chief Justice conceded that states faced a difficult task, but commented that that is what the Clean Air Act seemed to require. In fact, Roberts said, if the EPA had “taken a different view,” it might have violated the Act.
The Supreme Court has not indicated when it will release an opinion in this case, but if it rules in favor of EPA, we may finally see binding, effective federal interstate air pollution regulation. If not, EPA will have to address the concerns of those 8 Northeastern states without the benefit of CSAPR. Either way, it is likely that we will see some resolution around interstate air pollution regulation in 2014 – and that’s something to be excited about!