Supreme Court Limits EPA Power: What You Need to Know – WSB-TV Channel 2


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with coal producers and several states in a dispute over the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, limiting the agency’s ability to address climate change.

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In a 6-to-3 decision, the nation’s highest court determined that under the Clean Air Act, the nation’s top air pollution law, the EPA does not have the authority to regulate emissions. greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming.

“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from using coal to generate electricity may be a ‘sense solution to the crisis of the day,'” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “But it’s not plausible that Congress gave the EPA the authority to enact its own regulatory scheme in Section 111(d) (of the Clean Air Act).”

>> Read the full Supreme Court opinion

What was it ?

The case centered on the Clean Power Plan, a set of rules introduced during President Barack Obama’s tenure that aimed to move the country from coal to cleaner energy sources.

The Supreme Court blocked the plan from taking effect in 2016, and former President Donald Trump later repealed it in favor of rules more favorable to the fossil fuel industry, The Wall Street Journal reported.

What did the Supreme Court decide?

The government argued that the EPA had the authority to implement the Clean Power Plan based on its authority to regulate certain pollutants from existing sources under the Clean Air Act. However, the Supreme Court determined that the agency exceeded the limits because it did not explicitly have the ability to transfer power generation from higher-emitting producers to lower-emitting producers.

The justices wrote that under the EPA’s interpretation of its authority based on the Clean Air Act, “Congress has implicitly asked it, and it alone, to balance the many vital national policy considerations involved in the basic regulation of how Americans get their energy”.

“There is little reason to believe Congress did so,” the court said.

Among the rules included in the Clean Power Plan, coal producers could buy emission allowances or credits under a cap-and-trade program aimed at facilitating a switch to cleaner energy sources. . In the court’s majority opinion, Roberts noted that Congress had repeatedly considered and rejected a carbon cap-and-trade program several times before the EPA announced its plan.

What did the dissenting judges think?

In a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the Supreme Court had stripped the EPA “of the power needed — and the power granted — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” and responding to the threat of climate change, “the most pressing environmental challenge of our time”.

“The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the climate policy maker,” Kagan wrote. “I can’t think of many scarier things.”

How will this affect regulation in the future?

Thursday’s decision is expected to affect more than just the EPA because of its reliance on the major issues doctrine, according to The New York Times. The doctrine states that agencies cannot execute major policies without explicit permission from Congress, Bloomberg Law reported.

“For a century, the federal government has operated on the assumption that Congress can largely delegate regulatory power to executive branch agencies,” University of Texas Law School professor Steve Vladeck said Thursday. and CNN Supreme Court analyst, according to the news network. “Today’s decision opens the door to endless challenges for these delegations – on everything from climate change to food safety standards – on the grounds that Congress has not been specific enough in giving the agency the power to regulate these “major” matters.”

President Joe Biden said Thursday he has instructed his legal team to work with the Justice Department and relevant agencies to determine how to continue to address pollution and climate change under federal law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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