The Supreme Court considers an energy industry challenge to the Clean Air Act.

How Much Is Too Much When It Comes to the Costs of Environmental Regulation?

How Much Is Too Much When It Comes to the Costs of Environmental Regulation?

Law and the Supreme Court justices who interpret it.
March 28 2015 12:52 PM

Amicus: Mercury Rising

The coal industry and 22 states ask the Supreme Court to throw out new restrictions on toxic emissions.


Listen to Episode 14 of Slate’s Amicus:

This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Michigan v. EPA—a challenge to new federal regulations requiring coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other hazardous pollutants.


Michigan, along with 21 other states and a number of mining and utility companies, claims that the new rules were enacted without proper consideration of costs. They say the Clean Air Act only allows the government to regulate emissions where it is “appropriate and necessary.” The issue before the court, then, is to what extent “appropriate and necessary” should amount to a monetary cost-benefit analysis.

On this episode, Dahlia speaks with lawyers on both sides of the case. First, she hears from Peter Glaser of Troutman Sanders LLP, counsel of record on an amicus brief filed by the National Mining Association. Then, she speaks with Sean Donahue of Donahue & Goldberg LLP, counsel of record on a brief filed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and several environmental groups.

Last but not least, Dahlia gives a recap of the week’s other big case. In Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Supreme Court is considering whether specialty license plates depicting Confederate flags qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment. Like all good oral arguments, this one sometimes revealed a lot more about the justices asking the questions than about the free speech dispute being argued.

Please let us know what you think of Amicus, our new legal affairs podcast. Our email is

Podcast production by Tony Field.

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate and hosts the podcast Amicus.