TIME

Philippine Storm Nears Same Typhoon-Ravaged Area

Philippines on Alert for strengthening Typhoon Hagupit
Image made available by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Dec. 4, 2014 showing Typhoon Hagupit. EPA

Government forecasters said Typhoon Hagupit was packing sustained winds of 127 miles per hour

(MANILA, Philippines) — Villagers in the central Philippines fled coastal homes and sparked panic-buying in grocery stores and gas stations as an approaching powerful storm brought back nightmares of last year’s deadly onslaught from Typhoon Haiyan.

Government forecasters said Typhoon Hagupit was packing sustained winds of 205 kilometers (127 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 240 kph (149 mph) over the Pacific, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) off the country’s eastern coast. It may hit Eastern Samar province on Saturday and barrel inland along the same route where Haiyan leveled villages and left more than 7,300 dead and missing in November last year.

Haiyan survivor Emily Sagales said many of her still-edgy neighbors in central Tacloban city, which was ravaged by Haiyan, packed their clothes and fled to a sports stadium and safer homes of relatives. Long lines formed at grocery stores and gas stations as residents stocked up on basic goods, she said.

“The trauma has returned,” the 23-year-old Sagales said. In the wake of last year’s typhoon, which killed her mother-in-law and washed away her home, she gave birth to her first child, a baby girl, in a crowded makeshift clinic filled with the injured and the dying near the Tacloban airport.

“It’s worse now because I didn’t have a baby to worry about last year,” she said.

Haiyan demolished about 1 million houses and displaced about 4 million people in the central Philippines. Hundreds of residents still living in tents in Tacloban have been prioritized in an ongoing evacuation.

Hotels in Tacloban, a city of more than 200,000 people still struggling to recover from last year’s massive damage, were running out of rooms as wealthier families booked ahead for the weekend.

“The sun is still shining but people are obviously scared. Almost all of our rooms have been booked,” said Roan Florendo of the hilltop Leyte Park hotel, which lies near San Pedro Bay in Tacloban.

The government put the military on full alert, workers opened evacuation centers and transported food packs, medicines and body bags to far-flung villages, which could be cut off by heavy rains.

In Manila, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday led an emergency meeting of disaster-response agencies and ordered steps to prevent panic-buying and hoarding of goods.

Aquino checked on the readiness of Philippine air force aircraft, hospitals and police contingency plans to deal with possible looting similar to what happened in Tacloban after Haiyan crippled the city’s police force.

“I think we’ve been challenged worse by Yolanda,” Aquino told officials, referring to Haiyan’s local name. But during the nationally televised meeting, he was told that Hagupit — Tagalog for “smash” — has further strengthened.

Initially, forecasters said there was a chance the typhoon could veer north away from the Philippines in the direction of Japan. Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, however, told Aquino on Thursday it was almost certain the typhoon would slam into the country’s eastern coast.

Some towns in the typhoon’s predicted path said they will shut schools on Friday. Inter-island ferries and some commercial flights were canceled.

The government also decided to move the venue of a meeting next week of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which was to be attended by hundreds of diplomats from 21 member economies, from Albay province, which could be lashed by the typhoon, to the capital, Manila, which forecasters say will likely be spared.

TIME Environment

The Real Wilderness of Wild: A Brief History of the Pacific Crest Trail

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Hikers cross Agnew Meadows on the Pacific Crest Trail in California. Danita Delimont — Getty Images/Gallo Images

The path that Reese Witherspoon walks in her latest film took 60 years to become a reality

Wild, a film based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir, in theaters Dec. 5, tells the tale of a woman wandering over more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. And that means one of star Reese Witherspoon’s most important co-stars is the trail itself.

Today there are more than 1,000 official national trails that sprawl across America like a nervous system. But in the beginning there were just two: the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. The latter, spanning about 2,650 miles of America’s West Coast, from Mexico to Canada, was the dream of a fellow named Clinton Clarke. In 1932, the avid hiker formally proposed a border-to-border trail connecting the peaks of the Pacific Coast, to preserve and protect America’s “absolute wilderness” before it was overrun by “motor cars” and industry.

“In few regions of the world—certainly nowhere else in the United States,” he later wrote in 1945, “are found such a varied and priceless collection of the sculptured masterpieces of Nature as adorn, strung like pearls, the mountain ranges of Washington, Oregon and California.” The Pacific Crest Trail, he said, “is the cord that binds this necklace.”

Clarke’s hero, and cause, was the explorer who would pitch his or her tent in the mountains night after night, desperate to hear the snowfall and see nothing brighter than the stars, seeking a “simpler and more natural life.” He believed that the “PCT” wasn’t just some track of dirt, but a means of forging “sturdy bodies,” “sound minds,” “permanent endurance,” “moral stamina” and “patriotic citizenship.” (As if it needed to be mentioned, Clarke was a dedicated Boy Scout.)

Clarke wasn’t the only person to dream of such a trail, but he was the most organized. To further the cause, he put together a whole federation of hiking clubs and youth groups dedicated to the project, known the Pacific Crest Trail System Conference. For years, he oversaw the massive task of scouting and constructing a route through the wilderness, connecting existing trails by building new ones, all while avoiding as much settled area as possible. Clarke served as the president of the conference for 25 years, which included big-name members like the Sierra Club, YMCA and photographer Ansel Adams. For this, he earned his place in history as the “father” of the trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail officially became the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in 1968, 11 years after Clarke died at the age of 84. The popularity of hiking had been growing and, as of 1963, America had a President and First Lady who were very interested in preserving the outdoors: Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Johnson proposed the study of a national system of trails, which would give the federal government a way to establish and oversee footpaths that weren’t on federal land. The volunteers who oversaw the Appalachian Trail were anxious for that kind of mandate, worried that handshake agreements allowing hikers to pass through private lands might otherwise dry up.

People like the Department of the Interior’s Daniel M. Ogden, who recounts the political battle for establishing a national system of trails in a 40th anniversary newsletter, pushed Congress to pass a bill based on the study Johnson requested. And Oct. 2, 1968, Johnson signed a “conservation grand slam” of four environmental measures: the National Trails System Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Redwood National Park Act, and the North Cascades National Park Act. The only two national scenic trails at the time, which require an act of Congress to be designated, were the Appalachian and the Pacific Crest.

By 1972, a council created by the government had come up with a final route for the trail that Clarke had imagined 40 years earlier. After years of construction and negotiation with private property owners, the trail was completed in 1993 with a “golden spike” ceremony reminiscent of the transcontinental railroad. That was also the year that the non-profit Pacific Crest Trail Association forged a partnership with the federal government to oversee and keep up the trail.

Many people have since completed the whole-hog, end-to-end trek. Others, like Cheryl Strayed, have settled for three-month, 1,100-mile adventures. So long as the hikers come out a little different on the other side, they should all be satisfying Clarke’s wish for what the trail would be. “It is simply a ‘track worn through the wilderness,'” he wrote in 1945, “for hardy adventurers who can enjoy the experience and benefits of a friendly struggle with Mother Nature.”

TIME 2014 Election

Louisiana Senate Runoff Leads to Last-Minute Donations

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) speaks during a press conference to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill on April 1, 2014 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) speaks during a press conference to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill on April 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. Allison Shelley—Getty Images

Oil and gas industry among the big donors

The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline bill in the Senate last month may have been viewed as a blow to Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s re-election bid, but her battle to get the bill passed was warmly received by members of the oil and gas industry, including Keystone’s parent company.

And not only have corporate PACs, top executives and lobbyists in the industry stepped up with large checks for the embattled Landrieu’s campaign in recent days, but so have many of her fellow Democrats, including a number of liberal New England senators who voted against the legislation.

It will be weeks before there’s a final tally of all the contributions to Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who face each other in a runoff this Saturday (Dec. 6). But each campaign has filed several lengthy reports listing hundreds of donors in recent days. From Oct. 16 to Nov. 16, according to filings made today, Cassidy raised $2.1 million to Landrieu’s $1.5 million. Landrieu raised money quickly in the wake of the Nov. 18 Keystone vote, bringing in at least $807,900 since the day before the vote, but Cassidy gained and has raised at least $983,000 in the same time frame.

Landrieu’s last-minute drive for support has relied mainly on wealthy individuals from Louisiana — along with a smattering of New York high-society donors — and strong backing from oil companies and liberal Democratic politicians. Cassidy, on the other hand, picked up large checks only from a handful of ideologically driven PACs and reliable out-of-state partisan individuals until the last few days, when he disclosed receiving a flood of money from GOP establishment figures, like soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), and some prominent brand name corporate PACs, like Aetna,American Airlines and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

While full data on fundraising and spending by each campaign is only available through Nov. 16, FEC rules require that during the period within 20 days of an election, candidates report any donations of $1,000 or more within 48 hours of receiving them.

Landrieu’s Backers

The Nov. 18 Senate vote on a bill to approve the controversial Keystone project featured Landrieu front and center. Despite opposition elsewhere, the pipeline is popular in Louisiana, where oil and gas is a major industry and employer. The bill failed, and many pundits portrayed it as a defeat for Landrieu in her bid for re-election. But several big names in the oil and gas world seemed grateful.

According to filings made late last month, on the day before the vote, BP‘s corporate PAC gave Landrieu’s campaign $5,000. On Nov. 18, Martin Durbin, president of trade group America’s Natural Gas Alliance, personally gave her campaign $1,000, and the group’s PAC followed up with $5,000 more. Two days after the vote failed, the American Petroleum Institute‘s PAC contributed $5,000, as did ConocoPhilips‘ corporate PAC. The corporate PAC of Chevron, a company known for its conservative political leanings, and the PAC of natural gas giant Sempra also contributed following the vote, as did the Interstate Natural Gas Association. TransCanada, the parent company of the KeystoneXL project,reported giving Landrieu $2,500 on Nov. 24.

Landrieu has also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from other corporate PACs that represent major interests in Washington, particularly in natural resources and energy: American Electric Power, Exelon, Freeport-McMoran and Edison Electric.

Many of these companies tend to shy away from giving to Democratic candidates, and an endangered one in a race that conventional wisdom says may already be lost wouldn’t seem to be a great bet. The American Petroleum Institute’s PAC has given 85 percent of its money to Republicans this cycle; Chevron’s PAC has given 84 percent of its contributions to GOP candidates; and Freeport McMoran’s PAC has given 68 percent of its money to Republicans.

Adding to the unusual nature of Landrieu’s fundraising is the fact that at the same time oil and gas companies were shoveling money into her campaign, many of her Democratic Senate colleagues were voting down the very bill those companies supported — and then apparently leaving the floor to write large checks to support her.

In the days after the Keystone vote, Landrieu collected checks from the leadership PACs of Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.),Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Maria Cantwell(Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and others — all Democrats who voted against the pipeline.

Most of Landrieu’s individual donations come from Louisiana addresses, with the notable exception of several dozen large checks from people in a very small geographic area of Manhattan — specifically the tony Upper East Side. Those society-name donors include William Lauder and heiresses Kate Whitney and Agnes Gund (who listed her occupation as “philanthropist”); their gifts may be linked to a fundraiser hosted by Hillary Clinton for Landrieu in New York shortly before Thanksgiving.

Cassidy’s Strong Finish

While Landrieu was raking in big checks from oil and gas companies as the Keystone bill went down in flames, Cassidy’s fundraising seemed stagnant. In a filing submitted on Nov. 19, covering the days just around the vote, Cassidy reported raising just $67,500 from large donors — compared to Landrieu’s filing on Nov. 20 listing $179,400. At that time, most of Cassidy’s donors were individuals and from out-of-state. In fact, his Nov. 19 filing is dominated by members of the DeVos clan — the conservative Michigan family led by Richard Devos, the founder of Amway. Richard Devos, his son Dick Devos and seven other members of the family each gave Cassidy checks for the maximum $2,600 for the runoff.

In contrast to Landrieu’s flood of support from her Senate colleagues, the only congressional leadership PAC giving to Cassidy then was the one sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). The next filing, on Nov. 21, was similarly lackluster, showing just $99,400 in large donations.

But Cassidy’s efforts got a sudden boost that showed up in his Nov. 24 report listing $254,900 in large contributions. The impetus may have been a donation from McConnell’s leadership PAC. Whatever led to the sudden outpouring of mainstream support for Cassidy, it was a turnabout.

In that filing, Cassidy reported donations from major corporate PACs like Aetna, Altria, American Airlines, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Devon Energy and Caterpillar. He also picked up donations from the corporate PAC of Oxbow Carbon — the company led by the “other” Koch brother, Bill Koch, who also donated personally. Additionally, Cassidy logged checks from GOP Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.)

The flood of donations increased with two even larger filings made on Dec. 1, covering the days around Thanksgiving. Donors listed in those documents include more big corporate PACs, such as those of America’s Health Insurance Plans andHumana, as well as much more leadership PAC cash from the likes of Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Chuck Grassley(Iowa).

Saturday’s vote will finally decide how large the Republicans’ majority will be as they take control of the Senate in January — 53 votes or 54.

TIME Environment

Fastest-Melting Region of Antarctica Triples Rate in a Decade

Antarctica Ice Melt NASA
Glaciers seen during NASA's Operation IceBridge research flight to West Antarctica on Oct. 29, 2014. NASA/Michael Studinger

According to a new analysis by NASA and researchers in California

The fastest-melting region of Antarctica is doing so at a rate triple that of a decade ago, according to a new analysis, making it the largest area contributor to the rise in sea level.

The findings of the 21-year study by scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine offer the most precise estimates yet of just how fast glaciers in West Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea Embayment are melting. Scientists determined the rate by taking several radar, laser and satellite measurements of the glaciers’ mass to measure changes over time; between 1992 and 2013, they lost an average of 91.5 billion U.S. tons per year, or what they calculated as the equivalent of losing the water weight of Mt. Everest every two years.

“We have an excellent observing network now,” Isabella Velicogna, a co-author of the study, said in the statement. “It’s critical that we maintain this network to continue monitoring the changes, because the changes are proceeding very fast.”

The findings will provide a greater understanding of glaciers and ice sheets, which the researchers labeled the biggest uncertainties in predicting future sea levels. Previous studies have also examined Greenland, where NASA scientists have witnessed for years “unprecedented” melting of its ice sheet surfaces.

TIME Infectious Disease

NYC Insects Can Eat An Astounding Amount of Human Food Waste

ants on leaf
Getty Images

Meet the tiny trash crew under your shoe

Here’s a relieving factoid to put your cravings in context: arthropods, the class of invertebrates including insects, millipedes and spiders, can scarf down way more junk food than you can.

So finds a new study from North Carolina State University and published in the journal Global Change Biology, which examined how arthropods act as tiny trash disposals in New York City’s public spaces.

The researchers wanted to see how these tiny city dwellers consume our littered food waste, so they imitated neglectful humans and dropped two sets of scraps of potato chips (Ruffles), cookies (Nilla Wafers) and hot dogs in 45 parks and street medians across the city. One set of food was placed in a cage so that only tiny arthropods could access it, and the other was an uncaged buffet for whatever animal happened to come along.

Our littered food waste can have real implications for our health, the researchers say. If city vertebrates—like rats, sparrows, raccoons, squirrels and pigeons—pick up most of our edible garbage, we’re feeding a population that can transmit diseases to humans. Most arthropod scavengers, on the other hand, don’t make us sick.

Lucky for us, arthropods are amazingly effective at removing our trash. While they’re no match for vertebrates, with whom they compete for access to our scraps, arthropods were able to remove most, and in some cases all, of the caged food in many spots around the city. Surprisingly, compared to insects in parks, insects in medians removed two to three times more food each day—thanks to the presence of pavement ants, highly efficient foragers.

In a year, the researchers estimated, arthropods could, all told, vacuum up the equivalent 60,000 hot dogs, 200,000 Nilla Wafers or 600,000 Ruffles potato chips.

“If left uneaten—or if eaten by animals that harbor human diseases—this littered food waste becomes a public health, environmental, and financial burden,” the study authors write. “Future work should further explore the conditions that favor the competitive advantage of arthropods as food removers in cities.”

So spare the next bug you see on the sidewalk. City life would be a lot less pleasant with crumbled food waste in your way.

TIME India

New Delhi, the World’s Most Polluted City, Is Even More Polluted Than We Realized

INDIA-POLUTION
Smog envelops buildings on the outskirts of the Indian capital New Delhi on November 25, 2014. ROBERTO SCHMIDT—AFP/Getty Images

Researchers have been measuring background pollution when they should have been doing roadside readings

New Delhi has already been ranked the world’s worst polluted city by the World Health Organization, but a new study by U.S. and Indian scientists shows that the city’s air quality is far worse than previously thought.

American scientist Joshua Apte, working with partners from the University of California, Berkeley and Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology, roamed the streets of the Indian capital in an autorickshaw laden with air pollution monitors. He found that average pollution levels were up to eight times higher on city roads, the Associated Press reports.

Apte compared the readings from his road trips to readings at urban background sites, which he says are already extremely high. The levels of PM 2.5, the particle known to be most harmful to human health, were found to be 50 percent higher on Delhi’s roads during rush hour than during ambient air quality readings. Black carbon, a major pollutant, was found to be three times higher.

“Official air quality monitors tend to be located away from roads, on top of buildings, and that’s not where most people spend most of their time,” Apte said. “In fact, most people spend a lot of time in traffic in India. Sometimes one, two, three hours a day.”

India is the third largest polluting country in the world, after the United States and China — who both signed a major bilateral climate deal in Beijing earlier this month.

Its rapidly growing vehicle numbers, expected to hit 400 million by 2030, are posing a major threat that the government is well aware of.

Several steps have been taken to reduce the number of Indian automobiles running on diesel, and the country’s National Green Tribunal also announced on Thursday that it would ban any vehicles older than 15 years from New Delhi’s roads.

But far more drastic measures will be required to make a meaningful dent in Delhi’s air pollution levels, which, according to the latest WHO Ambient Air Pollution Database, are at just under 300 micrograms per cubic meter. The world’s second most polluted city, Karachi, clocks in at a little over 250, while the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, internationally notorious for their pollution, clock in a relatively fresh 120 and 80 respectively.

TIME Environment

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Is Easing Up

An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso
An aerial view of a tract of the Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers near the Brazilian city of Novo Progresso, Pará state, on Sept. 22, 2013 © Nacho Doce / Reuters—REUTERS

In fact, it just fell to its second lowest level in 25 years

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has fallen to its second lowest level in 25 years, according to the country’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Teixeira said 4,848 sq km of forest were cut down between August 2013 and July 2014, compared with 5,891 sq km during the same period a year earlier, the Associated Press reports.

The drop is a surprise, since environmental groups have been warning of an increase following the adoption of a controversial 2012 bill that eases clearing restrictions for small landowners.

“The major message is O.K., is good: Brazil has been advancing,” says Marco Lentini, coordinator of the Amazon program for WWF’s Brazil branch, while cautioning: “It doesn’t mean that the deforestation issue is over.”

The Amazon rainforest, considered an essential natural defense against global warming, is gradually being razed to make way for cattle grazing, soy plantations and logging. Sixty percent of the forest is found in Brazil, which has pledged to reduce deforestation to 3,900 sq km per year by 2020.

[AP]

TIME

Residents Asking Why City Smells Like Cat Urine

Air samples to determine what's causing the smell will take weeks to complete

(NEW CASTLE, Pa.) — Residents are hoping tests on air samples can explain why their western Pennsylvania city smells like cat urine.

New Castle residents began noticing the smell Nov. 1 in the city about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The New Castle News says the smell is still lingering near a sewage treatment plant in the city’s Mahoningtown neighborhood.

State environmental officials don’t believe the odor is harmful, but they don’t yet know what’s causing it.

A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says on-site monitoring didn’t detect any hazardous substances in the air.

But tests on air samples to determine what’s causing the smell will take weeks to complete. The DEP is also testing wastewater to determine whether it’s causing the smell.

TIME

EPA Poised to Announce Proposed Air Pollution Limits

A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant located 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pa.
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant located 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pa. Jeff Swensen—Getty Images

Regulation will be aimed at smog from power plants and factories across the country, a report says

The Environmental Protection Agency is on Wednesday poised to announced federal air-pollution regulation that would limit ground-level smog, according to various media reports.

The regulation will be aimed at smog from power plants and factories across the country, according to a New York Times report, and would be the latest effort by the EPA to place regulations on air pollution.

Meanwhile, the proposal is expected to reignite a spat between businesses and environmental groups, Wall Street Journal reported. Back in 2011, the EPA estimated that the proposed standard — then set at the toughest level the agency had yet considered — could cost $90 billion a year to utilities and other businesses. President Barack Obama delayed issuing it, WSJ reports.

Ozone in the air is an oxidant that can irritate the air ways and cause coughing, a burning sensation, shortness of breath, and other lung diseases. Children, people with lung disease, older adults, and those who are active outdoors are most sensitive to ozone, according to the EPA. Ozone, or smog, is particularly likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in cities.

The EPA will seek public comment on limiting ozone pollution between 65 to 70 parts per billion of ozone in the air, the WSJ reports, citing people familiar with the matter. That line is what an independent scientific advisory panel recommended earlier this year and is also below the current level — set at 75 parts per billion — which was set in 2008 under the then-President George W. Bush administration.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Environment

High Court to Review EPA Mercury Limits

Will hear arguments from industry groups and states challenging EPA rules designed to clean up dangerous toxins

(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court is stepping into a new case about Obama administration environmental rules, agreeing to review a ruling that upholds emission standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

The justices on Tuesday said they would hear arguments from industry groups and states that are challenging Environmental Protection Agency rules designed to clean up chromium, arsenic, acid gases, nickel, cadmium as well as mercury and other dangerous toxins.

The pollutants contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld the rules in April.

One judge on the appeals court complained then that the EPA didn’t consider costs in deciding whether regulation of hazardous air pollutants from power plants is appropriate.

“The problem here is that EPA did not even consider the costs,” wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. “And the costs are huge, about $9.6 billion a year — that’s billion with a b — by EPA’s own calculation.”

The other two judges on the appellate panel said in response that the EPA properly looked only at health risks, not compliance costs, in deciding that mercury and the other pollutants should be regulated. But the agency did factor in costs and benefits at the next step, when it wrote the standards that the plants need to meet, the court said.

EPA determined that when the rules are fully in effect in 2016, their benefits will exceed the costs by a factor of at least 3 to 1. Some industry groups have said the EPA was overstating the benefits.

The Supreme Court said it wants to know whether EPA unreasonably refused to consider costs in the first place.

About half the coal-fired power plants in the United States were built more than 40 years ago and have never installed advanced pollution-control technology, EPA said.

The agency first decided to go ahead with the limits on power plant emissions in 2000, the final year of the Clinton presidency.

But after President George W. Bush took office in 2001, EPA tried to undo its earlier decision. The circuit court, however, blocked EPA from doing so. And when Barack Obama became president in 2009, the agency again decided to move forward. It issued final rules in 2012.

Twenty-one states are taking part in the Supreme Court appeal. They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The case will be argued in late March, with a decision expected by the end of June.

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