Supreme Court EPA rule

Mercury, Rising: SCOTUS and Our Earth

This week, the Supreme Court issued a decision in that obstructs further implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard rule. The regulation, put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 and authorized by the Clean Air Act, required electric and energy industries to reduce mercury pollution. The decision in the case Michigan et al v. Environmental Protection Agency centered on the question of whether the EPA unreasonably disregarded the costs to industry of regulating hazardous pollutants. The Court ruled 5-4 that the industry did not have to follow the rule.

This ruling will have somewhat complicated effects as roughly 70% of coal power plants and others who have historically produced mercury pollution have come in compliance with the EPA rule since 2011. However, the remaining coal power plants who have not already reduced or eliminated mercury emissions will be able to continue to do so and to push toxins into the air that are linked to serious health threats, particularly for children.

In 2011, when the mercury rule first came out, former director of the Religious Action Center, Rabbi David Saperstein, stated that: “As heirs to a tradition of stewardship that teaches us to be partners in the ongoing pursuit of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, it is our sacred duty as Jews to care for the environment that sustains us. As such, we welcome the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards.” You can read the full statement here.

We are disappointed to see this rule regulating mercury and other toxics be so limited by the Court. However, this year has also brought with it several major environmental steps toward curbing the causes and effects of climate change:

While the decision in Michigan v. EPA  is certainly a setback, we are not without hope. As Jews, we believe it our duty to act as environmental stewards in partnership with God protecting our earth, and we will continue to do so. We will do so through legislative advocacy, speaking truth to power as we let Congress know that we care about sustainable development in climate-vulnerable areas through the Green Climate Fund. Further, we will do so in our congregations, as we ourselves become more energy efficient and sustainable and we will become environmental champions as individuals, by slowly changing our own small habits to reduce our personal carbon footprints.

If you’re interested in doing more, you can let your Members of Congress know that you care about protecting our earth and sustainable development by signing this action alert. You can also talk to your congregation about completing an energy audit through GreenFaith and challenge yourself to be more environmental in your day-to-day life by learning how to stay green this summer.

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Liya Rechtman

About Liya Rechtman

Liya Rechtman is a legislative assistant from Brooklyn, New York, where she is a member of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Liya graduated from Amherst College.

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