Muckraker: Grist on Politics

U.S. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced on Friday that her agency will begin a new rulemaking process on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, dropping a Bush-era legal challenge that sought to delay such regulations.

Jackson said that acting solicitor general Edwin S. Kneedler will not pursue the previous administration’s appeal to the Supreme Court, which asked them to reconsider the federal appeals court ruling in New Jersey v. EPA. In that case, the court sided with New Jersey and 14 other states in their challenge to the EPA’s decision in March 2005 to establish a cap-and-trade system for mercury rather than regulating it under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act.

“President Obama’s EPA does intend to regulate mercury under section 112 of the Clean Air Act,” said Jackson.

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Speaking to reporters after her remarks at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference, Jackson said the agency rulemaking process would get underway quickly. “Now EPA has to get to work and actually start a rulemaking process, this time hopefully one that will stick in the legal system,” said Jackson.

She said there is no time line yet on when new rules could be expected. “I’m just excited by the solicitor general’s agreement today that we are probably better off spending all of our resources making rules that will stick instead of fighting the courts on this one,” said Jackson.

Jackson also acknowledged that the rulemaking process on mercury has the potential to affect rules regarding carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. “It’s related to many of the discussions we’ll be having about climate change as well,” said Jackson, noting that the agency is also going to work on completing an endangerment finding on carbon dioxide emissions as the Supreme Court directed it to do in Massachusetts v. EPA. Earlier in the day, Jackson announced that her agency is also starting the process of reevaluating a request from California to set tougher tailpipe emissions standards.

“The EPA is extraordinarily delighted to begin to look at the regulatory role of not just auto emissions, like we looked at today, but looking at endangerment and making a finding as the Supreme Court asked EPA to do almost two years ago,” Jackson told reporters.

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The majority of Jackson’s remarks at this morning’s address focused on green jobs, as she pledged that her agency would be a partner with labor and environmental groups in creating jobs programs around the country.

“Your partnership with us will ensure that the green jobs touch all Americans,” Jackson told the crowd of labor and environmental activists. “Labor must be a vital partner as we embark on that challenge.”

“Green jobs are vital for the growth of our economy,” said Jackson, who also noted that jobs like installing pollution controls on old power plants also qualifies as “green,” putting them into the context of her mercury announcement. “You can indeed have both a healthy environment and jobs … green policies can help create good jobs, jobs that are sustainable.”