Supreme Court Seems Ready to Block a Biden Plan on Air Pollution

Members of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed inclined on Wednesday to again limit the Biden administration’s ability to protect the environment by temporarily stopping an effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to curtail air pollution that drifts across state lines.

Such a decision, expected by June, would be in keeping with recent rulings by the court, which has chipped away at the agency’s authority to address climate change and water pollution.

The new cases concerned the administration’s “good neighbor” plan. Under the proposal, which initially applied to 23 states, factories and power plants in Western and Midwestern states must cut ozone pollution that drifts into Eastern states.

The justices appeared to be divided along familiar lines on whether to block the plan, which directs states to take measures meant to reduce emissions that cause smog and are linked to asthma, lung disease and premature death.

A ruling halting the plan would be provisional, as a challenge to it will continue to be litigated in an appeals court and could then return to the Supreme Court. The question for the justices was what should happen in the meantime. Even a temporary loss for the administration could suspend the plan for many months and maybe longer.

The Clean Air Act gives states an opportunity to devise their own plans, subject to approval by the E.P.A. Last February, the agency concluded that 23 states had failed to produce adequate plans to comply with its revised ozone standards. The agency then issued its own plan.

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