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Missourians generally applaud EPA ruling

June 29, 2015 at 11:21 p.m. | Updated June 29, 2015 at 11:21 p.m.

Missouri was one of 21 states that joined Michigan in suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency over its "toxic emissions" regulations.

"There is a growing public perception that the EPA is acting without accountability when making decisions that adversely impact our state's economy," Attorney General Chris Koster said in a news release. "Missouri will continue to hold the EPA accountable and protect Missouri's growing economy."

And Missouri and a dozen other states took the EPA back to court Monday, in a new lawsuit challenging the agency's recent rule that, critics say, expands the definition of "waters of the United States."

That states also sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

THE EMISSIONS RULING

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the EPA had to take a utility's compliance costs into account when considering regulations requiring power plants to reduce the amount of toxic materials released from their coal-burning operations.

In his release, Koster said: "EPA's remedy, by its own assessment, would cost up to 2,400 times more than any benefit it might provide."

Ajay Arora, Ameren Missouri's Environmental Services and Generation Resource Planning vice president, said the company "remains committed to transitioning to cleaner sources of energy. As we've said many times in the past, this transition needs to be done in a responsible way that protects our customers from unnecessary cost increases, particularly those with low or fixed incomes.

"This ruling enhances our view that customer costs always should be a factor as new environmental regulations are considered."

And former state lawmaker David Klindt, now vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, told the News Tribune: "What we hope is that it will put some accountability back into the EPA. ... I know that the electric cooperatives have spent over $1 billion in the last decade and a half, to take out this particulate matter."

But the Sierra Club - which had joined several groups urging the Supreme Court to back the EPA rules - said Monday the high court's ruling was "flawed."

Spokeswoman Emily Rosenswasser, in Chicago, told the News Tribune the "Supreme Court decision is bad for Missouri because the number of waterways impacted by mercury contamination in the state is staggering - every waterway is listed as impaired."

Mary Ann Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal Campaign," said: "The protections this court rejected would shield our kids from the lifelong neurological damage brought on by exposure to toxic mercury, and prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually."

While the EPA had looked at costs in considering the rule, the court's ruling Monday said that determination also had to be part of the agency's initial process into whether the regulation was "appropriate and necessary" - and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., for further action.

Sarah Feldman, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, told the News Tribune McCaskill supports efforts to reduce dangerous mercury emissions while asking the EPA to make its mercury rule "more practical and reasonable. The Supreme Court's ruling returns this issue to the lower court, and Claire will closely monitor that litigation and the interim steps the EPA can take to curb emissions in the most cost-effective manner."

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, said: "This ruling was a confirmation that the EPA can't continue to thumb the scales and cherry pick data to justify its massive expansion of regulatory powers."

And U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, liked the ruling.

"This ruling agrees with actions we have taken in the (U.S.) House to protect families from the Administration's policies that will dramatically increase costs for Missouri families," she said.

"WATERS OF UNITED STATES'

The EPA recently moved forward with a new rule, under the federal Clean Water Act, that Koster said in a news release "would expand the scope of clean water regulations to lands that are dry much of the year, and increase the federal government's authority to control land use in Missouri."

The new definition, he said, "defines tributaries to include ponds, streams that flow only briefly during or after rainstorms, and channels that are usually dry. The definition extends to lands within a 100-year floodplain - even if they are dry 99 out of 100 years."

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for North Dakota, and seeks an order declaring the rule unlawful and prohibiting the EPA and the Corps from implementing it.

Without such an order, the "waters" rule will go into effect within 60 days.

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