The environmental movement thrives in a fantasy world where economic realities don't apply. The concept of weighing costs against benefits is anathema to their doctrines -- the greens won't move from the position that no cost is too great to impose on American taxpayers and consumers to realize the smallest perceived benefit.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the federal government, which exists in the real world, doesn't have to follow such a philosophy. In a 6-3 ruling, the court held that the Environmental Protection Agency can use cost-benefit analyses to determine whether it makes financial sense for older power plants to install expensive upgrades.
Environmentalists wanted more than 500 power plants to use the same water-recycling equipment that cools machinery at newer generation facilities. These older plants suck in billions of gallons of water each year from rivers, lakes and waterways, killing billions of fish in the process.
However, mandating these environmental upgrades would cost billions of dollars. Moreover, installing the fish-friendly recycling equipment takes plants offline for months, then significantly reduces a power plant's output. The EPA estimated that on top of the costs of the new equipment and the temporary closures, utilities would have to spend billions more dollars on 20 new 400-megawatt plants to make up for the lost generation capabilities. Of course, ratepayers would cover the costs.
Because these plants also exist in the real world, such investments in depreciated facilities are senseless. Rather than comply with the EPA mandate, the plants would have closed, shrinking the nation's supply of electricity and driving up power bills in the process.
That this is the real goal of the environmentalists isn't a surprise, nor is their resourcefulness in pursuing their obstructionist objectives. Using the Clean Air Act to try to save fish? Go figure.
The Supreme Court decision overturns a ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said cost can't be considered by the government in mitigating environmental impacts. The court's ruling applies to Bush administration policies, which sided with utilities. The Obama administration, however, is in bed with the greens and remains free to do their bidding.
But thankfully, the high court acknowledged that regulation brings consequences, and to ignore the economic ones -- shutting down infrastructure, decreasing our standard of living -- to save a few fish is nuts.