The fate of a crucial piece of President Obama's environmental legacy is in the hands of the Supreme Court—and two of the justices that the administration badly needs to win over are not rushing to its defense.
At stake are sweeping federal limits on mercury and other toxic pollutants that leak from power plants. More than two decades in the making, the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation is slated to take effect next month. But the high court could deal a serious blow to the rule—and Obama's green legacy.
On Wednesday, justices heard oral arguments in a case challenging whether the EPA was justified in deciding to regulate mercury and other pollutants based solely on the fact that exposure posed a public health threat.
A decision is expected in June.
At issue is the agency's decision not to consider how much the rule would cost for the utility industry to comply with before deciding it would set limits on toxic pollutants. The EPA says cost wasn't a necessary consideration in its decision; industry challengers don't agree. Compliance with the regulations would cost an estimated $10 billion a year, which the plaintiffs—a coalition of states and industry groups—say will trigger power plant shutdowns and threaten grid reliability.