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SCOTT JAGOW: Today, the Supreme Court hears a case about smokestacks. The question is: How should the government measure factory pollution? Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Factory owners wants the feds to base their emissions measurements on how much pollution is produced in a single hour.

Environmentalists want the feds to tally net emissions over a longer period, such as a year.

Alabama Solicitor General Kevin Newsom filed a friend of the court brief in the case. He says companies won't do upgrades that could make the plants run longer, if it'll cost 'em. Newsom says it's like making repairs to your car costing more than it's worth.

KEVIN NEWSOM:"The rational driver, faced with that scenario, will just keep driving."

But John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council says that analogy won't work.

JOHN WALKE:"Power plant lobbyists use the analogy inorder to mask the fact that what the want to do is causing the air to get dirtier."

If environmentalists win the case, companies might have to replace their aging plants. They say that would cost millions.

But environmentalists say cleaner factories would mean less money spent treating diseases caused by pollution.

I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.