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SCOTUS rulings on lethal injection, EPA have Missouri impact

Saint Louis, Mo. — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on two cases today that will have a direct impact on Missouri.

Missouri joined 22 states in the Michigan v. EPA case, arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency did not properly consider the costs to utilities and others in the power sector before setting new regulations on toxic air pollutants in 2011.

Some of the rules took effect last April, and are aimed at curbing mercury, arsenic and acid gasses produced by coal-fired power plants. Five Supreme Court Justices ruled that the EPA “unreasonably” interpreted the Clean Air Act when it decided not to consider compliance costs or whether regulating the pollutants was “appropriate and necessary.”

Attorney General Chris Koster led Missouri’s involvement in the case and issued a brief statement after the court issued its favorable ruling.


“There is a growing public perception that the EPA is acting without accountability when making decisions that adversely impact our state’s economy,” Koster said in his statement. “This case is a good example of that perception being true – where EPA’s remedy, by its own assessment, would cost up to 2,400 times more than any benefit it might provide.  Missouri will continue to hold the EPA accountable and protect Missouri’s growing economy.”

Congressman Jason Smith, R-MO 8, issued a statement as well.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency is a win for common sense,” Smith said. “The Court simply said that the EPA must consider the immense cost complying with regulations will have on folks. Only after looking at the cost, should the EPA determine if the ‘regulation is appropriate and necessary.”

The SCOTUS also ruled in a controversial case dealing with lethal injection. In another close decision, the court ruled in Glossip v. Gross that the state of Oklahoma’s use of a sedative called midazolam as part of its execution drug cocktail did not violate constitutional provisions against cruel and unusual punishment despite concerns raised by petitioners who said that the drug did not reliably render a prisoner unconscious.

Opponents of the death penalty have pushed for Oklahoma to cease using the drug after the 2014 botched execution of Clayton Lockett, which gained national attention when the inmate took several minutes to die and appeared to suffocate and cry out several times in pain while he was supposed to be unconscious.

Missouri has had its own problems with execution drugs in the past several years as the state Department of Corrections seeks to find a usable drug while also keeping the drug and their source secret. In Missouri, as well as Oklahoma, nearly every inmate scheduled to be executed has challenged in court their right to know what drug is being used in their execution.

The court’s ruling today stands as yet another judicial affirmation of the constitutionality of the death penalty. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said in his opinion that state-sanctioned executions do not immediately become unconstitutional simply because executed feel some level of pain, marking a major blow for opponents of capital punishment.