The Supreme Court today denied an industry request to reconsider a lower court ruling against a Bush administration rule on mercury emissions from power plants.

The court announced today that it would not review a decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, requested by the Utility Air Regulatory Group, to overturn the Clean Air Mercury Rule.

The utility group asked the court to review the case last fall, arguing that the Bush administration had legally decided not to regulate power plants under the Clean Air Act's Section 112, which requires the strictest emission controls, in order to allow for a more flexible cap-and-trade approach favored by utilities.

Attorneys for the Bush administration's Justice Department also requested a Supreme Court hearing on the mercury case last fall, but the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court earlier this month to drop the request for review.

The court today also granted the Obama administration's request to dismiss the Bush administration's appeal.

Obama's EPA this month announced plans to develop maximum achievable control technology, or MACT, standards for electric utilities that force each individual plant to curb their emissions, as opposed to the Bush administration's cap-and-trade approach that the federal appeals court struck down.

John Walke, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Obama administration would end eight years of efforts to stave off mercury controls for power plants.

"That shameful era is at an end, but thankfully now we can all look forward to strong MACT standards that will sharply reduce mercury emissions from power plants," Walke said.

The utility group maintains that EPA had lawfully decided not to regulate coal- and oil-fired power plants under the stricter section of the Clean Air Act, said Lee Zeugin, the industry group's counsel and an attorney at Hunton & Williams.

"I guess we're going to move forward with MACT [standards]," Zeugin said, adding that the group remains concerned about whether EPA has the legal authority to require stricter controls from power plants.

The agency will now embark on several years of MACT rulemaking for power plants with no mercury regulations in place in the meantime, Zeugin said. When the final rule is released, "I'm sure UARG will challenge EPA's authority to do any of it," he said.

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500