DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's governor and attorney general were on opposite sides of a case argued Wednesday at the U.S. Supreme Court concerning new mercury and toxic air emissions standards for power plants.
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad joined Michigan and 19 other state leaders seeking to strike down the standards the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued in 2012. They claim the regulation is unlawful because the EPA initially failed to consider costs calculated at $9.6 billion.
Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the case represents another attempt by President Barack Obama's administration and the EPA to increase government red tape and costs to consumers.
"The end result of the Obama administration's failed energy policy is fewer jobs and higher costs for Iowans," he said in an email statement.
The EPA responded to Branstad's opposition in a 2011 letter that said the proposed standards will have little impact on electricity rates and "will save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of asthma and heart attacks..."
Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, joined his colleagues from 15 other states in support of the EPA. He said he's defending the interests of citizens against pollutants that risk their health.
"Our position is that the health benefit savings are projected to far exceed the compliance costs and it's also projected that it would save lives in Iowa and across the country," said Miller's spokesman Geoff Greenwood.
He said the fact that Miller and Branstad are on opposite sides is simply "an indication that the attorney general and the governor have different views of the same legal issue."
A federal appeals court in Washington last year upheld the EPA, sending the case to the Supreme Court which last November accepted the case and set arguments for Wednesday.
The court appeared to be divided in the 90-minute session with several justices questioning whether EPA was required to take costs into account when it first decided to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants, or whether health risks are the only consideration under the Clean Air Act.
The court's conservative justices appeared skeptical of EPA's interpretation of the law while the court's four liberal justices appeared more comfortable with EPA's position. Justice Anthony Kennedy may be the decisive vote. A decision is expected in June.
Branstad and Miller also were divided on the federal health insurance overhaul after it was signed by Obama in 2010. Branstad joined officials from more than two dozen other states in a lawsuit in 2011 to declare Obamacare unlawful. Miller signed onto a friend of the court brief that supported it.
Branstad and Miller aren't always on opposite ends of legal arguments. They agree that the EPA should return to a policy that requires increased production of renewable fuels saying a proposal last year to curtail the so-called renewable fuel standard goes against congressional intent.
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