You may have heard some talk the last few days, and not just among angry conservatives, that the Roberts Court is turning out to be surprisingly liberal. An important qualification of that observation would be that it doesn’t seem so “liberal” in any case involving corporate interests. The Chamber of Commerce did not file amicus briefs in either of last week’s big landmark cases involving same-sex marriage or Obamacare.
But the Chamber was engaged in another case where a 5-4 decision came down today that nobody would describe as “liberal”–Michigan v. EPA. Here the Court (with Scalia writing the opinion and Roberts, Kennedy, Alito and Thomas in support) overruled EPA’s practice under the Clear Air Act of considering industry costs in determining the means of securing pollution improvements but not in determining whether regulation is appropriate. This is a big victory for polluters that will indirectly reinforce the more general conservative/corporate proposition that environmental protection is a nice bauble we cannot afford.
We’ll have more later about the potential impact of this decision, and about the overall impact of this SCOTUS term. But for now, it would be good to curb any progressive enthusiasm about the Roberts Court, happy as we all are about last week’s big decisions.