Supreme Court Sides With EPA in Clean Air Case

A narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the U.S. EPA has the authority to override state government decisions on what constitutes the “best available” anti-pollution technology. Enviros hailed the decision as a victory for clean air, while libertarian think tanks, a coalition of Western states, and four justices decried it as a violation of states’ rights. The case focused on a zinc and lead mine in Alaska whose expansion proposal had been accepted by state regulators; EPA officials subsequently ruled that the mine’s air-quality technology was not the “best available” as required by the Clean Air Act. The court’s ruling — one of several important environmental cases this session — comes at a rather awkward moment for the Bush administration, in light of its plans to sharply curtail EPA enforcement efforts in deference to states.