This article has been updated to include additional interviews.

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Last week’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage wasn’t the only Supreme Court decision in recent days directly tied to Michigan.

The Court struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards Monday in a victory for a coalition of twenty three states and interest groups, led by Michigan, who initially challenged the regulations in the D.C. Circuit Court last year.

The 5-4 decision marks the end of a twenty-five year push to create the first U.S regulations governing levels of mercury, arsenic, metals and several other airborne emissions for most power plants, first authorized in 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.

21 power plants in Michigan would have been subject to the standards if enacted, though the overall impact may have been limited due to existing state regulation on mercury and other airborne emissions that closely parallels the standards laid out in MATS.

In a statement Monday morning, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette called the ruling a victory for both family budgets and job creation in the state.

“The court agreed that we can and must find a constructive balance in protecting the environment and continuing Michigan’s economic comeback,” he said.

The judicial challenge hinged primarily on language in the amendments that instructed the EPA to implement the regulations only if they were deemed “appropriate and necessary”, examining what costs had to be included in that determination.

The government argued that under that mandate the EPA was only required to consider the public health costs of the emissions, not the financial costs to power plants, in the initial decision to regulate. However, Michigan Solicitor General Aaron Lindstrom, representing the states, argued that the financial costs were also pertinent.

Justice Antonin Scalia, in delivering the opinion of the Court, acknowledged that there are situations where “appropriate and necessary” wouldn’t indicate the need to consider cost, but said MATS wasn’t one of them.

“Agencies have long treated cost as a centrally relevant factor when deciding whether to regulate,” the opinion read. “Consideration of cost reflects the understanding that reasonable regulation ordinarily requires paying attention to the advantages and disadvantages of agency decisions.”

Scalia also emphasized that though the agency considered costs later on in the process of drafting MATS, that consideration wasn’t enough.

“By EPA’s logic, someone could decide whether it is “appropriate” to buy a Ferrari without thinking about cost, because he plans to think about cost later when deciding whether to upgrade the sound system,” he wrote.

That point was a key disagreement between the majority opinion and the four justices who dissented.

In a dissent joined by the other three dissenting justices, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that in looking at the EPA’s process of drafting the regulations as a whole, it was clear that financial costs had been considered, fulfilling the mandate of appropriate and necessary.

“When making its initial “appropriate but necessary” finding, EPA knew it would do exactly that — knew it would thoroughly consider the cost-effectiveness of emissions standards later on,” Kagan wrote. “That context matters.”

Finalized in 2011 and set to come into effect this year, MATS would have required most coal and oil-powered power plants to reduce emissions by ninety percent for some substances, such as mercury, and close to ninety percent for substances like acid gas.

For affected plants nationwide, that would have meant an annual cost of 9.6 billion, according to agency estimates.

Mercury emissions, which the agency identifies power plants as the largest producers of, are considered toxic because they can transform into methylmercury once in contact with water, which has been linked to brain abnormalities in children and unborn babies.

Other chemicals MATS seeks to regulate have been tied to asthma and cancer. The agency estimated that the regulations would have resulted in an overall annual health savings of 37 to 90 billion, and a decrease in premature deaths of up to 11,000.

In an interview Monday, Public Health Prof. Jerome Nriagu said even with existing state regulations in place, the decision could have implications down the road for Michigan residents because of the Great Lakes, which have high populations of fish susceptible to mercury contamination.

“Michigan is going to get impacted more than almost any state by this ruling…it’s very unfortunate,” he said.

He added that in general, the practice of considering cost, not public health, in setting environmental regulations could set a dangerous precedent.

“It focused not on health, not on long-term impacts, but on cost,” Nriagu said. “I thought that was very unfortunate.”

As well, though a victory for the attorney general’s office, in some senses the decision represents a detraction from the path Gov. Rick Snyder has outlined for the state’s energy policy, which has emerged as a priority for the governor over the course of the past year.

In his State of the State address, Snyder announced his intention to create a state agency focused on Michigan’s energy future. Earlier this year, he gave a special address on energy in which he suggested a shift towards more renewable and natural gas energy options, as well as specifically noted the importance of regulating pollutants from coal power plants such as mercury.

In response to the ruling, Snyder spokesman Dave Murray wrote in a statement that the governor appreciated the Court’s focus on affordability.

“Gov. Snyder’s energy policies already are built around four pillars, including affordability and protecting the environment,” Murray wrote. “We know that 10 coal power plants will be retired in the coming years. This is an opportunity to plan for a future energy policy that includes a focus on reducing energy waste, renewables, and making good decisions.”

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