The Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday upholding new clean air regulations has been hailed as a victory for environmentalists. And that it is; the 6-2 ruling allows important new restrictions to take effect, which will likely lead to the phasing out of some old coal plants and pave the way for further regulation. Importantly, though, the ruling by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was also a refreshing blow for common sense — in the face of nit-picking, polluter-friendly legal theories that would render much-needed environmental rules all but unenforceable.
The case stems from the federal Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision, which allows the EPA to regulate pollution that is emitted in one state but wafts into another. That provision is especially important for the Northeast, where wind patterns blow much of the nation’s air pollution. In one especially dramatic example, 93 percent of the ozone pollution in New Haven came from outside Connecticut. According to the EPA, no fewer than 28 states contributed to the city’s pollution.