'The Wind Bloweth': Court Gives Obama Victory on Smog

Ginsburg quotes Bible in siding with EPA on coal plants

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 29, 2014 6:46 PM CDT
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(Newser) – A Bible verse is getting heavy quotation today in a Supreme Court decision seen as a big victory for the EPA and the White House on air pollution. In her majority opinion, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited the Gospel according to John, notes the Washington Post: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” In this case, she was talking about the wind that bloweth air pollution from coal-fired plants across state lines, and her ruling upheld the EPA's authority to regulate it.

The New York Times calls it "a major environmental victory for the Obama administration," and SCOTUSblog agrees that it's a "clear victory for the EPA." The result is that about 1,000 power plants will have to put into place new pollution controls to limit nitrogen and sulfur emissions, reports the Guardian. The problem of air pollution blowing from coal-burning states into states downwind—think Ohio and Kentucky vs. Connecticut and New York—is a complex one, Ginsburg wrote, and the EPA must have the leeway to deal with the "vagaries of the wind." She thinks the EPA got it right with its current formula, though Antonin Scalia disagreed in his dissent. The case, he wrote, underscores "the major problem that many citizens have with the federal government these days: that they are governed not so much by their elected representatives as by an unelected bureaucracy operating under vague statutory standards.”

A smokestack in Hazleton, Pa.
A smokestack in Hazleton, Pa.   (AP Photo/Hazleton Standard-Speaker, Ellen F. O'Connell)
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