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Gone fishing

The environmental movement’s relentless attack on the nation’s traditional power sources continued Tuesday.

This time the venue was the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case involves the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations governing water intake at the nation’s oldest power plants.

These plants draw in billions of gallons of water a year — from rivers, lakes and waterways — to cool their facilities. The process can have an effect on certain fish, plankton and other aquatic organisms.

In determining whether to force these plants to install expensive, environmentally friendly upgrades, the EPA has traditionally used a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether such changes would be worth the effort. But last year, a federal appeals court — at the behest of various environmental groups — ruled that the Clean Water Act does not allow the government to engage in such calculations when making those determinations.

If the ruling is allowed to stand, many plants would be forced to close — the true goal of the radical greens — increasing electricity costs by up to 5 percent in some areas, according to an EPA estimate.

Richard Lazarus, an attorney representing environmental groups, told the high court justices that, “EPA has no authority in any circumstance to decide that fish aren’t worth a certain amount of cost.”

But isn’t that conclusion in and of itself a decision about the “worth” of certain fish?

In fact, the law does explicitly allow the agency to consider costs and benefits when determining how far to go in protecting humans from power plant discharges. “There is no reason Congress would want greater protection for fish from intake structures than for people through the discharge of pollutants,” Deputy Solicitor General Daryl Joseffer argued.

Yes, these power plants can injure or kill fish — and suck in their eggs. Yes, there are expensive technologies that could minimize this problem, technologies already in use at many newer power plants and soon to be added at others.

But it borders on aggressive lunacy to argue that regulators, when assessing the best course of action, must always ignore the consequences — economic or otherwise — of essentially forcing the closure of plants that provide millions of people with an affordable source of electricity.

In a favorable sign, at least one liberal justice, Stephen Breyer, expressed qualms Tuesday about accepting the arguments espoused by the environmentalists.

Let’s hope the other justices concur.

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