SCOTUS limits EPA’s ability to regulate Greenhouse Gases

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30 Jun 2022, 10:45 am

Supreme Court curbs EPA’s power to limit greenhouse gas emissions

The Supreme Court on Thursday curbed the Environmental Protection Agency’s options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, one of the most important environmental decisions in years.

In a setback for the Biden administration’s efforts to combat climate change, the court said in a 6-3 ruling the EPA does not have broad authority to shift the nation’s energy production away from coal-burning power plants toward cleaner sources, including solar and wind power.

"Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible 'solution to the crisis of the day.' But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body," Roberts said.

Future measures to address carbon dioxide pollution must be limited to restrictions imposed on specific coal-fired plants, instead of pushing utilities to shift from coal toward renewable energy sources, the ruling said.

In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the court's ruling "strips the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to respond to 'the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.'”

Kagan, who was joined in her dissent by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said the limits the majority of the court imposed on the EPA’s authority "fly in the face of the statute Congress wrote. The majority says it is simply 'not plausible' that Congress enabled EPA to regulate power plants’ emissions through generation shifting. But that is just what Congress did when it broadly authorized EPA in Section 111 to select the 'best system of emission reduction' for power plants."

In a statement, the White House called the ruling “another devastating decision from the court that aims to take our country backwards."

The case came before the court in an unusual posture. The challengers — a group of red states and coal companies — were not fighting any specific rule. Instead, they were contesting a federal appeals court decision that said the EPA could issue the kind of regulations they opposed.

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