With Scalia Gone, Roberts Hands Obama a Victory

As he did when he preserved Obamacare, Roberts sides with administration against conservatives

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may already be affecting the High Court: Chief Justice John Roberts has sided with the Obama administration by allowing the EPA to continue imposing billions of dollars in costs on industries while it continues to fix a pollution regulation.

Roberts has come to Obama’s rescue before, famously casting the deciding vote to uphold Obamacare and earning the eternal enmity of stunned conservatives. The alacrity with which Roberts acted — unilaterally — to allow an Obama EPA regulation to stand suggests Scalia’s extraordinary influence is already being missed and more Obamacare-style rulings from the Goerge W. Bush-appointed Roberts may be on the way.

The Supreme Court in June ruled that the EPA had failed to run a cost-benefit analysis of a rule limiting emissions of mercury and other pollutants. In December, an appeals court said that the EPA could keep right on regulating the pollutants while it did its analysis, which it says it will complete by April 15. But federal agencies are notorious for missing and extending deadlines.

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The states asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court decision. The mercury regulation “has imposed literally billions of dollars of compliance costs on utilities (and by extension on all members of the public who use electricity), and even if a similar rule is lawfully imposed at some time in the future, the quite substantial time-value of that money has already been lost and is irrecoverable,” the states wrote.

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Less than a day after the EPA responded that the states’ argument “lacks merit and should be denied,” Roberts agreed, ruling that the states would continue to incur costs while the EPA studied the benefits.

Normally, the petition would have been handled by the full court. But Roberts chose to rule all by himself — handing the Obama administration a major victory.

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